Correction: Editors/Reporters, please note the correction in this sentence - She said the only reduction in special education district funds occurred where populations of students decreased and/or the number of students in poverty decreased.
OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 12, 2013) – The State Department of Education’s Special Education Services Division has been able to save almost $8 million in a little more than a year without cutting necessary services to districts, State Board of Education members were told Wednesday, during the board’s monthly meeting.
Dr. Rene Axtell, Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services, noted that 30 contracts were sole-source contracts, some of which had duplication of services. A series of Requests For Proposals (RFPs) were issued and are in the process of being awarded resulting in a substantial savings.
“We did not cut necessities to school districts,” Axtell said. “In some instances, we were able to cut duplicative services.”
This left the focus on services that were communicated to the Special Education Services Division from stakeholders as necessary.
“If we could reduce, do without or do it ourselves, that’s where we were able to save,” she said.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi praised the efforts of the Special Education Services Division and said similar cost-saving measures are in process throughout the agency.
“Dr. Axtell should be proud of her work and of all of the efforts of those in her department,” Barresi said. “They kept their eyes focused on the children who are now the direct beneficiaries of those efforts. I express my thanks to these talented staff members.”
Axtell said the work began as she and her department prepared for cuts from sequestration, which initial projections showed could be as steep as 20 percent.
Dr. Axtell said the department restructured, chopping expenses such as travel for training when webinar training could be held instead. The staff also looked at services offered through all single-source contracts and considering how those services could be offered and duplicative services eliminated through the RFP process or by bringing the work in house.
She said the only reduction in special education district funds occurred where populations of students decreased and/or the number of students in poverty decreased.
“Should sequestration continue with deeper cuts, that story may be different in the future,” she said, but she will continue to work with districts should that occur.