Figuring out all the different pots of money that go into paying for special education is complicated, but you know what’s even more complicated? Figuring out how much special education in Michigan actually costs. And if we don't know that, we don't know whether we're spending too much or too little on special ed.
It’s so complicated even the people who specialize in school finance can’t figure it out.
The Michigan Legislature last year paid $399,000 to the Colorado-based firm Augenblick Palaich & Associates (APA) to figure out how much an adequate education costs in Michigan, and they came back with an amount: $8,667 per student plus extra for at-risk students and English-language learners.
But there was one glaring omission in the report: the cost of special education.
According to the report, “there was difficulty ensuring that the study team could account for all district expenditures for special education students.”