School Board Call to Action: Special Education Cross-Subsidy

  • Federal Resolution State Resolution


    The Columbia Heights Public School (CHPS) District Board of Education voted Jan. 31 on two resolutions to ask our state and federal governments to fund 40 percent of the cost of Special Education Services in our school District.  We are not alone in this request. School Boards throughout the state are sounding the call that Districts must have the funding they are promised, but have never fully received, via legislation passed 42 years ago.

    What does this mean and why is this important for our school District and our community?

    In 1975 Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). IDEA mandates public schools to provide special education and related services to all students who have a disability that interferes with the student’s education.

    When IDEA was signed into law, the Federal government agreed to fund 40 percent of the additional cost of educating children with disabilities. Forty-two years after the authorization, the most the federal government has funded IDEA has been 15 percent, or 25 percent less than what was authorized.

    The failure on the part of the federal government to fund their share of Special Education results in our District having to use funds otherwise dedicated to regular classroom instruction. This phenomenon is known as the Special Education Cross-Subsidy, which is the amount of money from the District’s General Fund used to pay the unreimbursed cost of providing Special Education services.

    Special Education Gross Cross-Subsidy Columbia Heights Public Schools has more than 600 students receiving Special Education services, an 18 percent increase over the past six years. Because of this significantly underfunded mandate, the impact on this District is staggering. Based on the most recent figures from the Minnesota Department of Education (2015-2016) the cost to pay for these special education services in CHPS was approximately $7.6 million. The Gross Cross-Subsidy in 2015-2016 is approximately $5.3 million, amounting to approximately 10 percent of our entire school District budget. As two frames of reference, the $5.3 million Gross Cross-Subsidy amounts to 75 full-time staff positions or the cost of the 2014 educational wing at Valley View Elementary School.

    Special Education Cross-Subsidy Fiscal Years 2003-2021









    Through the Federal Resolution, we ask the legislators to impress upon the “Congress of the United States to pass appropriate legislation in order to increase funding for federal special education mandates to meet the urgent financial special education needs.”  

    So, what can you as a member of our community do to help move these legislative initiatives forward?  

    We ask that you urge your state and federal elected officials to take action now to correct this 42-year significantly underfunded mandate for Special Education services in Columbia Heights Public Schools. Our District will continue to create worlds of opportunity for every learner. With your help, our District will create even more opportunities for all of our students.

    Thank you for your support.

    The Columbia Heights Public School District Board of Education
    February 2, 2018

    View the PowerPoint presentation that was presented to the School Board March 13, 2018.


  • State Elected Officials Representing Columbia Heights Public Schools 

    Senator Mary K. Kunesh
    Capitol Office
    95 University Avenue W.
    Minnesota Senate Bldg., Room 2323
    St. Paul, MN 55155

    Representative Connie Bernardy
    253 State Office Building
    100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

    Representative Sandra Feist
    429 State Office Building
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

    Federal Elected Officials Representing Columbia Heights Public Schools

    Senator Amy Klobuchar
    302 Hart Senate Office Building
    Washington D.C. 20510

    Senator Tina Smith
    309 Hart Senate Office Building
    Washington D.C. 20510

    Congresswoman Ilhan Omar
    1730 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington D.C. 20515

    Key Points

    The Special Education Cross-Subsidy measures the difference between Special Education expenditures and corresponding revenues. These required costs, incurred by every public school district in Minnesota, are for the high level of services mandated by the state for Special Education students. Put more simply, it is money from the District’s General Fund Budget that is needed to cover the underfunded mandate for Special Education.


    Special Education, mandated by Federal law, requires states to provide a “free and appropriate education” … for all children with disabilities from the ages of 3 to 21.

    The law authorized Federal Government funding up to 40 percent of the national average Per Pupil Expenditure for each Special Education student. During the past 42+ years the Federal Government has never funded this mandate by more than 15 percent (the most CHPS has received is 15 percent).

    Special Education, mandated by state law, requires local school districts to provide appropriate and necessary Special Education to children with disabilities from birth to 21 years of age.

    In Fiscal Year 2015, Special Education expenditures in Minnesota schools exceeded Special Education revenue by more than $600 million. The state share of the Special Education funding shortfall is more than $200 million.

    Impact on Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS)
    CHPS has more than 600 Special Education students for the 2017-2018 school year.

    The cost to fund Special Education in CHPS (2016) was approximately $7.6 million.

    The gross Cross-Subsidy for CHPS (2016 was approximately $5.3 million).

    This gross Cross-Subsidy is the equivalent of 10 percent of the total school District budget.

    This amounts to 75 full-time equivalent (staff) positions.

    The gross CHPS cross-subsidy exceeds the cost of the 2014 Valley View Elementary School educational wing addition.

    To meet a balanced budget, the District has to divert funds from regular classroom instruction into Special Education programming.