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Wisconsin Trails Country In School Special Ed. Reimbursement

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Several Northwoods school districts have picked up state funds to help offset what can be high costs for special education. The Department of Public Instruction says special education costs can range to $30,000 per student.

Director of Special Education for CESA 9 in Tomahawk, Matt Collins, says federal and state law requires school districts to provide access....

"....the whole idea behind special education is to equalize the access students have to a school. It's called free and appropriate public education as identified in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act...."

Collins, says the reimbursement is especially critical for small school districts...

"....and all of those services really add up quite a bit because a small district doesn't have that kind of personnel serving their entire population. Sometimes a great expense is getting that expense to the school...."

The state aid was sent to 143 local education agencies to help offset the costs. An analysis of states showed a 100 percent reimbursement rate to schools in Wyoming, with Wisconsin funded at the nation's low of 26 percent, with a national average of 53 percent. Wisconsin's categorical special education aid has been frozen since 2009 and no increase proposed in the currently-debated Wisconsin state budget. State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers says a combination of additional funds has raised the overall reimbursement to 73 percent of eligible costs.