By Elizabeth Goussetis
Reynoldsburg school administrators held a public hearing April 14 to solicit comments from the public on the use of federal funds for special education.
The hearing is held every year and is a mandatory requirement of the district as a condition of receiving the funding. However, this year, no one from the public showed up to comment.
Although how the district spends its money is of interest to people, there is less room for administrators to make the kind of judgement calls or budget decisions that might cause controversy, explained Cathy Bregar, director of student services for the district.
Districts are required by federal mandate to provide a “free and appropriate public education” to all students with disabilities, so if a student needs additional services like speech therapy, an interpreter or an aide, the school district must meet those needs.
“We have to spend what we have to spend, and it doesn’t really matter the source,” Bregar said, referring to whether funds are federal, state or local.
She said she works with the district’s treasurer to figure out which funding sources – local, state and federal – to use for each expenditure.
Bregar held the hearing along with special education administrator Susan Casto.
The funding is part of the Title IDEA B program (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which provided $1.1 million to Reynoldsburg for the current school year. The district uses most of that funding for personnel – salaries and retirement benefits for special education teachers. The district has about 40 special education teachers, and this federal funding covers about 13 of them, Bregar said. The only part of the budget that is non-discretionary is the $23,505 slated for St. Pius X School, which participates in the federal funding through the public school district.
The IDEA funds make up a small portion of the district’s total spending on special education. The local spending is $6.9 million, Bregar said.
The IDEA funds are granted to schools in proportion to the number of students with special needs. As of December, when the district does an official count of all students for funding purposes, Reynoldsburg had 900 students with special needs.