Watertown’s state representatives have been working to add more money to help the Watertown Public Schools deal with spiking special education costs, and State Rep. Jonathan Hecht said he is hopeful of getting some additional money.
The cost came in more than $650,000 above the budgeted level, and funds had to be diverted from those intended for the regular education budget. The School Committee has requested extra funds from the town for Fiscal 2015 to bring the base up to the level of the current year (Fiscal 2014).
The House budget includes a bill that would create a fund of $250,000 for school districts that have higher than average high-cost, out-of-district special education costs. Those programs are for students who have special needs that cannot be served in the Watertown schools, and in some cases cost $100,000, $200,000 or more, according to Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald.
The Senate included a bill that includes $350,000 for these costs, which was sponsored by State Sen. Will Brownsberger. The districts will have to meet certain benchmarks to get the money, Hecht said. The funds will have to be included in the final Legislative budget, and it is currently in conference committee. Because it is in both budgets, Hecht said he has hope.
“I’m cautiously optimistic it will happen,” Hecht said.
If the Legislature passes it, the bill must be signed by the governor and then the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will apply the benchmarks to see which communities qualify for the money, Hecht said.