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Brainerd School Board: Board supports special ed funding increase

Superintendent Laine Larson reads through the items of the School Board recognitions list during Monday's meeting in the Washington Education Services Building. Gabriel Lagarde / Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd School Board voted to back state-level and national resolutions to push for increased special education funding—an area of need that's been sorely lacking, according to district officials.

The resolutions, presented by the Minnesota School Board Association, will be submitted to state and federal lawmakers. They request increased funding for special education, citing the Educate All Handicapped Children Act. The act, first drafted in 1975, stipulates Congress will fund 40 percent of additional special education costs. According to the resolution documents, aid to mandated programs hasn't gone beyond 15 percent. Director of Special Education Heidi Hahn said federal funding has actually decreased 12 percent in recent years.

"Hopefully there will be momentum and focus at the federal level," Hahn said. "Minnesota's been fairly responsive, but there is a cross-subsidy expense. Each student costs about $815. It is a significant expense."

By backing the resolutions, the Brainerd School District joins 120 school districts across the state. It marks the first time the Minnesota School Board Association, along with many school administrators and educators in special education, has made a formal request.

Hahn noted these resolutions were prompted by rising costs, stagnant funding and an acknowledgement of a particular area of focus—about 1 in 5 students require some form of specialized care or education in the Brainerd School District, Hahn said during an earlier interview with the Dispatch. This is about 5 percent higher than the state average.

In other business, the board:

Approved a contract with Jostens Inc. for the creation and publication of the Brainerd High School yearbook for 2019-20. Business Services Director Steve Lund said the contract is locked down for 2 percent cheaper than prior agreements. The contract stipulates a minimum of 800 printed copies, which Lund said is comfortably lower than typical sales, with a proposed budget of $32,616.

Accepted the resignations of David Frank, assistant principal at Brainerd High School, effective Oct. 25; Else Carlson, an art teacher at Brainerd High School, retiring; Joanne Comstock, a first-grade teacher, retiring; Barbara Flynn McColgan, a physical therapist at Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative, retiring; Tim Richardson, a special education teacher at Lincoln Education Center, retiring; Lisa Salo, a speech language pathologist at Forestview Middle School, retiring; Susan Sebasky, a part-time literacy collaborative teacher, retiring; Sue Weber, a Title I teacher at Harrison Elementary School, retiring; Beth Wroolie, a special education teacher at Brainerd High School, retiring; Drake Barnhart, a custodian at Brainerd High School; Laura Hale, a food service employee at Harrison Elementary School, retiring; DeAnna Imgrund, a special education transportation employee at Washington Education Services Building; and Jennifer Pedersen, a media secretary at Baxter Elementary School, retiring.

Approved the hire of Rebecca Clark-Randal, a special education assistant at Brainerd High School, and Ariana Lavine, a special education assistant at Forestview Middle School.

Accepted donations from Jessica and Brandon Yaunick, $40 for milk for students at Harrison Elementary School; Shane and Anna Lammo, $39 for milk for students at Harrison Elementary School; Heritage Assembly of God for $4,500 for milk for students at Harrison Elementary School; VFW Post 1647, $1,000 for milk for students at Harrison Elementary School and $2,500 for the robotics program at Brainerd High School; Brad and Matt Wadsten, Edina Realty, $2,760 for the robotics program at Brainerd High School; John Keith and Colleen Both, $250 for the pantry at Forestview Middle School; Brainerd Rotary Foundation, $1,000 for the STEM club at Forestview Middle School; Ann and Mark Germain, $20 for student activities at Forestview Middle School; Kathy Binder, Winners Trophy and Engraving, $100 for the fuel up program at Forestview Middle School; Carol and Thomas Land, $25 for the fuel up program at Forestview Middle School.

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