Huntsville Schools forced to increase special education funding - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Huntsville City Schools forced to increase special education funding

Dr. Casey Wardynski said this does not ruin their finances or their budget. Dr. Casey Wardynski said this does not ruin their finances or their budget.

A change in federal policy is forcing Huntsville City Schools to increase funding for special education programs, causing them to owe the government a multi-million dollar check by next week.

With a change in school system leadership in 2011 and new government guidelines creating the debt, the school system said they do have the funds to pay this $2.5 million back.

A federal special education law requires districts to avoid significant cuts to the special education program without significant cause. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but none of them include financial cuts; that is exactly what happened to Huntsville City Schools a few years ago.

Because of the new federal guidelines, the district must increase its special education funding to $9 million, that is about $2.5 million more than it is spending now.

However, Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski said this does not ruin their finances or their budget.

He said they're prepared for this and all parents with children in a Huntsville city school have nothing to worry about.

Wardynski blamed federal bureaucracy for the funding glitch.

This dates back to when Huntsville's schools were deep in the red and managed to get their budgets in balance with a series of efficiencies and cuts. This included cuts to special education programs, which are partly paid for with federal money.

But federal funding came with the condition that the city had to spend a certain amount of its own money, $9-million, in the most recent school year.

Now the federal government and the state are demanding the city give back $2.6-million dollars.

Wardynski said it's disappointing the feds are so fixated on following spending formulas instead of what's actually achieved.

"And what is achieved, of course, is that we've gone in the right direction on student achievement. The number of schools that failed for special education students on AYP went down as this was all transpiring.  So I think the appropriate thing for government to do is focus on 'what are taxpayers getting for their money?' and not on 'we gotta spend a lot of taxpayer money,'" he said.

Wardynski said he encountered a similar situation when a government agency looked at Huntsville's buses and found them to be well maintained and working well, but then criticized that there weren't the officially required number of mechanics to maintain them - after observing that they were well maintained.

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