Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Schools to Cut Back on Special Ed $5 Million Saved by Eliminating Teachers, Central Office Staff

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Schools to Cut Back on Special Ed $5 Million Saved by Eliminating Teachers, Central Office Staff

Article excerpt

About $5 million of planned budget cuts in Pittsburgh Public Schools will come from special education, including the elimination of six central office positions, 58 teachers and 14 paraprofessionals this fall, city school officials said.

Even so, Mary Jane Conley, executive director of special education, told the school board Tuesday night, "We can be assured our high quality of service will continue to be provided as best practice for our students."

Trying to reduce projected budget deficits, the board previously approved changes that will result in the reduction of nearly 400 school-based professionals. The announcement that 58 of them will be special education positions was the first detail on some of those cuts.

Superintendent Linda Lane also announced previously there would be more cuts in central office. Now it is known that six of them would be in special education. Others are to be announced later. The board will have to vote on those position cuts.

The cuts amount to nearly 5 percent of the $107.6 million the district spends on special education.

Special education enrollment has declined in recent years, from 5,378 in 2007-08 to 4,616 in 2011-12.

The average cost per special education student a year is about $24,000, compared to $21,000 for the average general education student.

Much of the money that is being saved in special education is being saved the same way as for regular classrooms in the fall: increased class sizes.

The savings in teachers and paraprofessionals amounts to $3.4 million. The central office cuts will save $580,857.

Other savings include lower cost savings for certain staffing services as well as non-contractual cost savings.

The district also may make some money from fees for services provided to outsiders, such as professional development.

In addition, students will be more likely to be placed in district programs than in licensed private schools. …

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