Special education funding concerns in Marshalltown

The challenges of funding special education are hitting Iowa school districts in the pocket book and Marshalltown is no exception.

The special education fund in Marshalltown ran a deficit of $882,056 this past year.

Matt Cretsinger, special services director with Marshalltown schools, said other school districts are facing the same problem.

“Every year it costs more to support these students,” Cretsinger said.

He said the funding coming in from the state doesn’t match the rising costs of meeting the needs of those in special education.

“When we talk about students with special needs, the law makes us provide whatever those needs are without the consideration of cost,” Cretsinger said

Since the funding doesn’t match the costs, the MCSD will dip into cash reserves to pay off the $882,056 deficit.

For example, Cretsinger said it costs $30 to $40 an hour to hire a sign language interpreter.

“That is a highly specialized thing that we have to provide,” Cretsinger said.

Another added cost was the purchase of a special education bus to transport these students.

Cretsinger said other school districts in Iowa are in the same boat and indicated many are facing more than $1 million in special education fund deficits.

The Marshalltown School Board members said they will put more of an emphasis on special education funding in the future when talking with state legislators and setting their legislative priorities.

Superintendent Marvin Wade said this lack of adequate funding for special education is nothing new.

“It’s been an ongoing issue,” Wade said.

Marshalltown schools currently serve 637 special education students.