The Prescott School Board was asked to advocate for Gov. Tony Evers' proposal to raise special education funding by district administrators at the Wednesday, April 17, board meeting, and without hesitation, the board expressed its approval.
The board unanimously approved a resolution to support Evers' proposal which calls for an increase from 25% to 30% reimbursement on special education funding in 2019-20 and 60% in 2020-21.
Director of Pupil Services Mark Inouye informed the board that the state legislature promised to cover 70% of all special education funding in 1973. However, as recently as 1985, the legislature was providing 63% of funding. Today that number is down to roughly 25%.
For over a decade, the amount of money per pupil going to special education has been frozen, while special education and the costs to districts across the state have increased.
"That number has not increased in about 10 years, and because the pool of money has not increased, our reimbursement money has gone down by 4-5% just in the last 10 years," Inouye said. "Costs of special education continue to increase at a rate that is more advanced than regular education costs, and because those programs are required, they funnel some money out of the general fund."
Prescott School District currently turns to its Fund 10 budget to cross-subsidize up to an additional $1.7 million to cover special education costs that to date have been neglected by state and federal legislature.
"This isn't specifically about just asking for money," Prescott Superintendent Dr. Rick Spicuzza said. "It's asking for the legislature to fund what they previously promised in mandated services."
Dr. Spicuzza also emphasized that special education funding isn't a partisan or a rural issue; rather, it's a human rights issue.
"Whether you're a more urban district like Milwaukee or a rural district like Prescott, it's not a red or blue issue," Dr. Spicuzza said. "It's a human rights issue."
Board supports CCS social worker hiring
The school board also passed a resolution showing its support for the hiring of a full-time Pierce County Comprehensive Community Services social worker at the April board meeting.
The resolution presented by Dr. Spicuzza encourages the 17-member Pierce County Board of Supervisors to reduce the backlog of students and families who are currently waiting for services in which full funding is appropriated by hiring a full-time social worker.
The CCS social worker would serve all Pierce County communities, not just Prescott.
"I really like that we're stepping outside of our comfort zone and not just doing resolutions that help us for our budget and staffing, but that we're also doing resolutions that help our community as a whole," board treasurer Tanya Holum said. "I believe this is a great way for us to be good citizens and community members."
"This is definitely needed within the community, and I feel like we could be a leader in breaking ground with a new partnership between the school district and the county," current board clerk Josias Franco said.
PSD was "disheartened" to learn that the Pierce County Finance and Personnel Committee voted 4-2 (one member was absent) against approving a full-time CCS social worker position at its Monday, April 1, subcommittee meeting. However, the district is hoping its resolution inspires the county board to reconsider the April 1 vote at its Human Services meeting on Thursday, April 18.
4K program to add minutes in May
The Thursday, April 11, snow storm and previous delayed starts have forced the school district to add instructional minutes to its morning 4K program to meet statewide requirements.
The board unanimously passed the motion to add five minutes per day to the 4K program schedule beginning Monday, May 6, until the end of the school year.
Malone Elementary School Principal Sara Dusek worked with local 4K centers to find the most efficient and less disruptive solution, and the board and Dr. Spicuzza commended her efforts.