Kingston: Town explores how to change special education statewide

Kingston voters had a shock this spring. They could either pay no more in property taxes and have services to all public school students cut, or approve an additional $300,000 for special education students. More families with children in need of special education had moved into town.

For 40 years, state law has mandated municipalities cover the cost of special needs students. The state contributes some, but not all, costs to cover that mandate. That contribution has gone as low as 16 percent. It never exceeds 75 percent.

After Town Meeting considered several options, it reluctantly approved the override and, in a special election, the general electorate did too, but on the promise of finding a better way. That process began Wednesday night in the Kingston Town House when State Rep. Tom Calter and Kingston Schools Superintendent John Tuffy convened a meeting.

“The goal is to file legislation in the next legislative session to change the special education formula to remove some of the unmanageable, unsustainable burden on our local communities,” Calter said.

Calter and Tuffy will invite various speakers monthly from now to November. The guest Wednesday was Glenn Koocher, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. They hope to understand and present to the public how special education works in Massachusetts and how to lessen the burden on municipalities.

The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 22, at 6:30pm in the Kingston Town House.

About Charles Mathewson

Charles Mathewson is a reporter at WATD.