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WEA members testify in support of increased special education funding


No matter who you ask, there’s near-unanimous agreement: The state of Washington is not fully funding the true cost of special education.

Many districts subsidize state special funding with money from locally approved school levies, even though special education is part of the state’s responsibility to fund basic education. In 2017-18, districts spent an additional $400 million supporting special education students beyond what the state provided.

On Monday, WEA members urged members of the Senate budget committee to increase funding for special education students. Watch their testimony on TVW.

“If special education were fully funded, that would mean more school psychologists, and also more school social workers, more school nurses, more school counselors and not least of all, more special education teachers,” said Carrie Suchy, a school psychologist in Franklin Pierce. “You can’t do your job with high caseloads. Students don’t get what they need.

“Our students … deserve better, and we can do better.”

WEA members with Matt Boehnke
WEA members joined fellow WEA member Rep. Matt Boehnke in Olympia this week.

Stanwood-Camano special education teacher Rita Peterson told senators how the lack of adequate funding affects her students.

“The lack of full state funding for special ed means our district supplements special ed to the tune of over a $2 million,” she said. “What happens when we don’t fund it fully? Kids lose.”

Sen. Barbara Bailey, who represents Stanwood-Camano, asked Peterson whether adding a mental health counselor in each school would help. Peterson said she would never turn away more help, but that the need is much greater than adding a single position in each school.

“There is a mental health crisis in our schools,” Peterson said.

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