Committee members convened recently to continue their study of special education in South Dakota.
“What started out addressing one thing has opened up many other things,” Rep. Nancy Rasmussen, the Committee Chair, said of the study.
Indeed, committee members addressed a variety of topics they saw as issues they hoped the group could address, including a staffing shortage in special education, difficulties for rural districts to find resources, funding issues and out of district placement costs among them.
ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany testified before the committee his hope for theme to prioritize solutions for special education staff shortages, as well as out of district placement resources.
Pogany cited special education teacher positions being “the highest category” of open positions amongst all teaching positions on ASBSD’s Teacher Placement Service website, which is comprised of potential teacher applicants and school districts with open teacher positions.
Committee Member and USD Faculty Member Dr. Kari Oyen echoed the sentiment noting there was a “significant shortage of special education teachers in our state” and fellow Committee Member and Timber Lake Superintendent Dan Martin adding “there is professional shortages, especially in rural” schools.
Concern over the “high cost of placement” for high-need special education students was brought up by Committee Member and Sisseton Special Education Director Dr. Michelle Greseth with Pogany adding the issue being “a huge burden that schools just don’t know where to go” for solutions.
S.D. Department of Education CFO Matt Flett noted out of district placement costs in the state had increased by more than $4 million between Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2018.
Committee Member and Avon Superintendent Tom Culver sought for the group to seek a solution to “somehow have state involvement in the rates that are charged on out of district placements.”
Inspiration for the interim committee’s potential to find solutions for the multi-pronged problems in special education was presented at the meeting, as well.
Flett noted last year’s interim committee studying the state’s Extraordinary Cost fund developed this year’s House Bill 1001, which requires the recalculation of the special education disability levels’ amount allocation to take place every two years. He noted the change from every three years of rebasing to every two years would better assist districts in keeping up with “average actual cost” of disability level services in their special education budgets
Sen. Jim Bolin, Vice Chair of this year’s interim committee, as well as on last year’s ECF study, said the legislation that emanated from the 2018 study provided “a more positive impact than we had anticipated.”
The Special Education Interim Legislative Committee plans to meet in Pierre for the next meeting, but no date has been set.