Author: Harold Pierce

An unexplained increase in autistic and emotionally disturbed students is driving up special education enrollments — a huge problem for school districts that aren’t getting any additional state and federal funds to cover the ballooning costs.

All they can do is dive into their reserves.

In 2013, the Kern High School District had 3,173 students with Individualized Education Programs. It’s projected to serve almost 1,000 more next year. The Bakersfield City School District saw 64 new autistic students last year, bringing the total number of its special ed students north of 3,100 — a 4 percent increase over the prior year.

Experts can only speculate as to why autism diagnoses are on the rise – they’ve been attributed to everything from genetic deficiencies to better detection to vaccines. But those in special education are sure of one thing: the costs are staggering.

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