Detroit Free Press
June 7, 2011
Local money for special education is declining rapidly in some counties in metro Detroit, leaving school district leaders with difficult choices about how to pay for the state and federally mandated programs.
As property values decline, tax revenue has dried up from special millages that fund programs for students with autism, visual and hearing impairments and other disabilities.
Districts may have to dip further into general education budgets to cover the costs. It is unclear which programs might be at risk, but general funds pay for everything from salaries to textbooks to athletics.
Even though special education programs are mandated, some parents said they fear the declines will bring reduced services for their children.
“I’ve never seen conditions like these. They’re going to get worse,” said Marcie Lipsitt of Franklin, co-founder of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, a parent advocacy group.
Oakland County is facing an immediate problem — $150 less per pupil from its millage — and Macomb and Wayne counties are anticipating shortfalls in the next year or two.
“We’ve been warning them for years,” said Robert Moore, deputy superintendent for finance and operations for Oakland Schools, Oakland County’s intermediate school district.
“But that doesn’t make it any easier.”