A bill recently introduced by Rep. Dennis Canario would cap cost increases by private providers for special education services in public schools, keeping them in line with local budgets.
Canario (D-Dist. 71) learned of the stress placed on local budgets from cost increases by private providers after working with members of the Tiverton School Committee.
Canario said the answer “is not short-changing special needs students or trimming back other areas of a school budget to cover higher special education costs. It is finding a way to keep those outside costs from rising so much, so often.”
Legislation introduced by Canario, 2013-H 5203, would prohibit private educational service providers, such as the Groden Center, Bradley Hospital and others, from seeking an annual increase in payments from school departments greater than the four percent increase in tax levy increases allowed for municipalities by state law.
“Students with disabilities and special needs should never be the victims of budget problems in a community,” said Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton).
“As a result of law enacted some years ago, the so-called '3050' that sets a four percent cap on municipal tax levy increases, municipal and school budgets can grow only so much.
"In the face of that, it is a nightmare for schools departments to deal with special ed costs from private providers [growing] at five or eight, or 10 percent each year.”
Canario is looking to hold these private service providers to the same standards so that schools can continue to provide for special needs students within the confines of the budget.
“There may be instances when the specific kind of services provided by these agencies represents a significant change in the normal kinds of services, and obviously that would entail a higher fee,” he said. “But all else being equal, if communities have to live with a 4 percent increase every year, service agencies should not expect more than a 4 percent increase for their services.”
The Canario bill has been referred to the House Committee on Finance. It is co-sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) and Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).