MSBA requests state attorney general file lawsuit
The Minnesota School Board Association filed paperwork with Minnesota Attorney General's Office to require the federal government to fulfill its pledge and fully fund special education.
Melissa Sauser, chair of the Farmington School Board, serves on the MSBA. She gave a delegate assembly update.
The MSBA is made up of board members from every school district. The group recently hosted a grassroots convention to discuss a new platform and what issues it would lobby for in regards to education funding.
"When any item comes up across on the Senate or House floor, then we can say by the way, the school board members from across Minnesota are in favor and support of these measures," Sauser said.
The Minnesota special education funding formula is the primary funding source that pays for special education services, Sauser said.
Throughout the years, state and federal education mandates have increased but so has the costs of services. The number of students receiving special education services has also been on the rise.
Sauser said these factors and how the federal government is not fulfilling its 40 percent obligation has forced school districts to pay for services with general education dollars. Many districts have needed to ask constituents and voters to fund the required services through local levies.
The MSBA proposes fully funding Minnesota's portion of the cross-subsidy for special education. The MSBA also proposes a 3-percent increase for each year of the biennium and index the per pupil formula to inflation.
"We are asking the Minnesota attorney general to file a lawsuit on behalf of Minnesota school districts that requires the federal government to fulfill its pledge to fund 40 percent of specially-funded special education," Sauser said. "This is something where I know we have talked about it multiple times and how significant those costs are."
After lengthy MSBA discussions, the group decided to recommend this action at the Minnesota General Assembly.
"We were trying to decide if this is the next step to ask the attorney general to file a suit against the federal government, and this is the action we want to take and the right procedure," Sauser said.
In 1975 the Individuals with Disabilities Act was passed to improve access to education for children with disabilities by guaranteeing a free appropriate public education. This act called for the education to take place in the least restrictive environment and to assure the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. The act called for the federal government to assist states and schools with funding for children with disabilities.
"Since that time, they have never fully funded what was passed in that law," Sauser said.
The cross subsidy for Minnesota school districts for 2016 was $679 million and that was a 5.6 percent increase from f 2015.
Between the rising need and insufficient state and federal aid dollars, the amount of funding school districts as a whole in Minnesota are forced to pay for special education costs reached an average of $815 per student during 2017.
The resolution calls for the state of Minnesota to call upon the U.S. Congress to pass appropriate legislation to increase funding for special education mandates.
"This is something I am very passionate about and something I have had the opportunity to lobby our congressmen in D.C. on and to see if movement from our school board members to push this is huge," Sauser said.