Special Education Responsible for 61% of Cuts


As a part of the budget hearings two weeks ago, Dr. Wardynski and Mr. Spinelli told the public that they should email their questions about the system’s budget to Mr. Spinelli. In order to understand the changes being made to special education, I requested a comparison of the Special Needs Personnel Expenditures from FY2011 and FY2012. Basically, I wanted to see if my calculations that we were spending about $3.5 million less on special education than we were the previous year was correct. My calculations were wrong by about half.

On Thursday, I received an email from Mr. Terry (along with a CC to Mr. Spinelli) offering me a detailed comparison of the special education personnel expenditures from FY2011 to FY 2012. Mr. Terry sent me 74 pages of information in a pdf format that offered me details down to the amount of state taxes that were paid for a group of teachers at a school. While this was more detail than I thought I had requested, I certainly appreciated the effort that it took to run this report and send me a copy.

What the report didn’t include, however, were totals. Since I really didn’t want to add up 3,377 line items by hand twice, I decided to import the pdf into an Excel spreadsheet. So I imported the information into Excel and made use of the Summation feature to add up all of the data for FY2011 and FY2012. For clarity: these are the central office numbers that Mr. Terry and Mr. Spinelli provided to me. I’ve done nothing to them but copy them into a spreadsheet. I’ve included both the Special Education Budgets FY2011 & FY2012 pdf file that I received from Mr. Terry Thursday and the spreadsheet that I developed yesterday for comparison.

Here is a summary of the numbers.

In FY2011, Huntsville City Schools budgeted $27,588,027.27 for Special Education. In FY 2012, that budget has been cut to $20,414,163.53.

This is a reduction in funding of $7,173,863.74 or approximately 26%.

In FY2011 there were approximately 2,800 Special Needs students enrolled. We have received two numbers concerning the FY2012. On August 4, Dr. Wardynski stated that there were approximately 2,700 special needs students enrolled. On September 8th, he stated that there were 2,300 students enrolled. When I asked Mr. King about this discrepancy on September 15th, he said the difference was probably an error that resulted from the iNow software not working correctly. He assured me that they were working to correct this issue, and that the actual enrollment was likely closer to 2,700.

If this is the case, then the special needs enrollment has declined by approximately 3.6%. If the enrollment is closer to 2,300 then the enrollment has declined by approximately 18%. With the continued growth in enrollment over the past two weeks, I would suspect that our actual enrollment for FY2012 is either exactly the same as in FY2011 or higher.

On September 8, 2011, Mr. Spinelli reported that our projected Budgeted Excess Revenues over Expenditures is $11,684,121. This is the total projected reduction in the deficit for the system for the year. In other words, our $15,903,454 deficit for FY2011 will be reduced by $11,684,121 to $4,219,333 at the end of FY2012. We are projecting saving $11.6 million dollars over the coming year, and $7.1 million of that is coming from special education cuts. Thus, special education cuts represent 61% of the projected savings for the year.

In other words approximately, 11% of the student population is responsible for 61% of the cuts. As I have said before, the board and Dr. Wardynski are balancing their budget on the backs of our children.

If you agree that this is not fair, I encourage you to contact your board member and ask them to address this.

The next board meeting will be on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 5:30pm. I underestimated the scope of the problem two weeks ago. I suppose that’s what I get for giving Wardynski and the board the benefit of the doubt. It won’t happen again.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. I believe that he is bringing in all of these people and hiring firms to vet applicants because he doesn’t know what he is doing. With ten months experience…who ever thought he would make positive changes anyway. He doesn’t know a good teacher, principal, or specialist from a hole in the ground!!! The entire board needs to be more accountable.

    1. I agree that the board needs to be held accountable, and that they need to hold Dr. Wardynski accountable for the decisions he is making.

  2. If Dr. Wardynski has managed to cut the Special Education budget by that amount AND is meeting every IEP in the system, then there shouldn’t be a problem. So I guess I have to ask… are the IEP’s being met?

    (Yes… I do know the answer.)

    1. No. IEPs are not being met.

      It isn’t possible for a teacher to meet the requirements of the individual education program needs of 12 different children.

      For example, due to overworking/over assigning our Occupational Therapist, the boy’s IEP requirement of 30 minutes a week isn’t being met. In 7 weeks, he’s had 2 sessions of OT.

      I, like most other parents, don’t want to involve our children in lawsuits that only offer our system’s limited resources to Mr. Brooks, but if they do not address this, and specifically, if they don’t address the requirements of the IEPs because they aren’t willing to spend money on instruction (even though they are willing to spend it on administration), then Huntsville will retain its status as the most sued system in the state.

      1. No, IEPs aren’t being met. Some schools don’t even have all of the personnel they are supposed to have because the school systems is trying to pay so little for these persons that no one is even applying. We are being offered monetary compensation at this point because my son is missing some of his IEP needs. Just think, they could have paid Barbara Cooper $7000 less and offered that much more for at least one of the persons they are needing to hire to fill one of the positions still unfilled.

  3. I enjoy reading your comments. I was told by someone within Merts that Dr. Cooper refused to accept an offer without
    employment being provided for her husband and that a new position was thus created. I have also heard that a
    recruitment firm was paid in excess of $11,000 to recruit Dr. Cooper, who Dr. W already knew and wanted. Do you
    know if these are true?

    1. No. I haven’t heard any of this. But neither would it surprise me. I’ll ask and see what I hear. I would suggest contacting your board member and asking too.

      If this is true, there will be a paper trail eventually.

    2. I’ve asked and have been assured that there is no truth to these rumors. Concerning the recruitment firm, the board would have had to approved that contract. As far as I can tell, no approval has taken place. I believe that this rumor is not true.

    1. I’ve written to ask if there’s any truth to the rumors. If I get a response, I’ll let you know.

      Rumors do have a way of flying, but the special needs consolidation was also just a “rumor” until suddenly it wasn’t.

      We’ll see.

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