RICHMOND – With the District 200 school board’s vote to withdraw from a special education cooperative, other districts could see their costs rise.
Despite that, District 157 Special Education Director Jackie Miller recommended the district remain where it is in the Special Education District of McHenry County, a now 17-district cooperative that provides specialized special education programs.
The one-school district, which is made up of Richmond-Burton Community High School, has two students that are in SEDOM programs, one 18 years old and the other 17 years old.
District 2, which covers the same geographic area and feeds into District 157, also has an eighth-grader who is enrolled in SEDOM programs.
Students that require this amount of support can typically remain in school until they are 22 years old, Miller said.
“It is a fluid situation from year to year,” board Vice President Dave Thomas said. “We could have a family move into the district tomorrow.”
As more districts have brought special education programs in-house and have worked collaboratively to provide services closer to home, SEDOM has shifted its focus to “a center for the medically fragile” because they “have significant needs and are a unique challenge,” Miller said.
It also created a two-tiered system with different pay scales.
Most of the member districts are in Tier 2, which means they pay an administrative assessment cost and tuition plus 5 percent of the federal dollars they receive through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
In Tier 1, school districts keep their federal dollars but pay a higher tuition rate if they end up using SEDOM programs. They pay the same administrative rate.
District 200 was in Tier 1 before it voted to leave the cooperative. Two other districts are currently in Tier 1, and another three schools are transitioning.
Because the higher amount District 157 would pay in tuition if it switched to Tier 1 is more than the federal dollars it passes along to SEDOM, district staff is recommending it stay in Tier 2.
But as other districts consider leaving the cooperative and switching tiers, staff members will continue to keep an eye on costs and will make a recommendation if need be, Superintendent Dan Oest said.
“That will increase the cost of those programs,” Miller said. “That’s something that I can’t necessarily predict, how much it will increase, but it will increase because the rest of us will have to absorb those costs.”