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Sequestration could sap dollars for special education in Oak Harbor

Oak Harbor school officials are waiting for the outcomes of two decisions that will affect special education dollars. They want to know whether “sequestration” will happen at the federal level and they want to know the results of a levy election that takes place next month.

The Oak Harbor School District could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if the next “sequestration” deadline of March 31 is reached. That deadline would mean across-the-board cuts at the federal level which could cost the school district an estimated $220,000 in special education dollars and at least $500,000 in federal Impact Aid dollars.

The Oak Harbor School Board held a workshop Monday to discuss the levy’s affect on the district’s special education program.

The workshop participants — which included board members along with administrators, educators in the special education department and several parents — came up with a list of possible costs to the school district if the federal money was reduced.

People were concerned the funding loss will have to be made up with funds going toward general education programs. The funding loss would also result in staff cuts, which would in turn contribute to safety problems due to increased supervision, burnout due to increased workloads and community backlash due to the loss of services.

“We might run the risk of losing some of our quality staff we already have,” Superintendent Rick Schulte said in an interview after the meeting. He added that the staff is in a “wait and see” mode over the next two months.

Schulte will use the information gained from the meeting for an advocacy letter that will be shared with legislators.

The Oak Harbor School District did put a $500,000 line item in the upcoming replacement levy to help fund special education services in the school district. Schulte said feedback from public meetings held last year indicated that the public wanted the special education program to receive more funding.

 

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