Rep. Hecht Gives Forecast of Special Ed Circuit Breaker Funding

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State Rep. Jonathan Hecht said the Governor’s budget does not fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, but he hopes the Legislature can fix that. 

One of the main topics of discussion during the School Committee’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee meetings over the past week has been special education funding. The state chips in a significant amount for the most expensive services for special needs students – those costing $41,000 or more a year, according to Student Services Director Arlene Shainker.

The cost is based on “four times the state average foundation budget per pupil as calculated under the Chapter 70 education funding law,” according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

When fully funded, the state provides 75 percent reimbursement for the amount over $60,000. Last year the state fully funded the program with $250 million (Watertown received more than $2 million), but this year the governor’s budget is level funded, Hecht said. Because special ed costs have risen to about $265 million, this would mean the Circuit Breaker would not be fully funded.

“The House budget is next, and my hope is (Circuit Breaker funding) will come out higher than the governor,” Hecht said.

The Senate will also have its budget, and then the two houses will get together in committee to hammer out the final Legislative budget.

“We won’t know until between June and August,” Hecht said. “We don’t have certainties, but we do have parameters to work within.”

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