SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education (BOE) presented a preliminary budget at its Thursday, Feb. 20, meeting at the BOE offices. Lisa Rebimbas, director of special services, for the SPFK12 District, and Deborah Saridaki, the Business Administrator, walked the audience through the figures.

Based on October 15, 2019, counts, there are 825 special education students, 21 more than last year. Of those students, 88% are serviced within the district. Another 5.9% go to private schools for children with disabilities, while 3.6% are in public placements for students with disabilities, and 2.2% share time with other private/public placements.

According to the preliminary budget, $7.8 million is allocated for special education tuition at schools outside the SPFK12 district. The services include tuition for special education students attending the vocational program at Union County Vo-Tech in the shared program and full-day program, private in-state facility tuition, and private out-of-state facility tuition. 

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"These costs are not set by the Scotch Plains-Public Board of Education," said Mrs. Saridaki. "They are costs established by outside entities for which we have no cost control."

The proposed budget includes another $2.6 million (an increase of 3.3%) allotted for Special Ed transportation, while salaries for teachers and aides, classroom supplies, and professional development would total over $1.4 million, if the proposed budget is ultimately adopted. 

The cost allocations for additional support for Special Education programs -- including the resource program and related services (OT/PT/Speech, ABA therapy, ESS), one-to-one aides, child study teams, home instruction, and extended school year -- are set to increase by 3.5% and total almost $13 million. The entire proposed Special Education budget would exceed $26.7 million next year, if passed.

Editor's Note: These BOE figures are preliminary at this time.

In-district services include multiple disabled classes, pull-out replacement classes, in-class resources, speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling services, supplementary aide support, and transportation.

Other special education costs cover child study team members (social workers, school psychologists, learning disabilities teacher-consultants, special education teachers), instructional aides (group and individual aides), services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy, home instruction, and extended school year.

The district also provides funding to serve students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. Student assistance specialists provide support for school-based counseling and social skills. The budget also includes professional development, parent resources, and training. The specialists also are part of the elementary schools’ anti-bullying efforts. For middle school and high school students, the district offers the Effective School Solutions program that includes school-based counseling, school avoidance interventions, behavioral support programming, family support, and professional development for staff. 

"The district continues to support the increased educational, social, emotional, and mental health needs of its students through its general education and special education programs and related services," said Mrs. Rebimas. 

Students may require special teaching approaches, related services, modifications, and/or care within or outside a regular classroom. State and Federal mandates require the SPFK12 district to provide children with disabilities a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment possible. 

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