Presenting that same letter to legislators Monday, Fisher and Butcher expressed two issues with the current funding model. They said it is unfair there are different funding procedures for special education students and others placed in out-of-state facilities. Second, they believe there should be more state money devoted to special education services in general.
After "raising a ruckus" with the state department of education, Fisher said the department began to make more money available through applications for reimbursement. However, Butcher said counties still had to pay $800,000 last year to educate these students. That money could be going toward teacher development, materials or technology that could be used in local classrooms, he said.
Placements are ordered through the county court system, but Fisher and Butcher said there are few statewide guidelines for out-of-state placement procedures. Because there are not set parameters for when, where or how long a judge should order a student to go out of state, Fisher thinks the practice should receive greater oversight.
"There probably is a lack of consistency around the state because local decisions are made differently in different jurisdictions," Fisher said.
The 13 counties in the Northern and Eastern panhandles accounted for more than 57 percent of the special education students placed in out-of-state facilities as of October 2011, according to another department of education report. Berkeley County placed 21 students, with another 11 students coming from Ohio County and eight coming from Morgan County.
There were 118 total placements of special education students made by October 2011, according to the data. However, the total out-of-state enrollment for special education students during the 2011 fiscal year was 274, according to the report from the office of special programs. That is down from the 432 students enrolled in 2006, but Fisher and Butcher said per-pupil costs for educating students has risen.
Fisher and Butcher said they are not asking for more money immediately. They think legislators should look at the current system and consider additional funding and oversight measures for the future.
Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843, david.bouc...@dailymail.com or @Dave_Boucher1.