LEWISTON — Anticipating that funds will go unspent this upcoming school year, officials have proposed cutting half a million dollars budgeted for out-of-district special education placements.

In response to a previous discussion among School Committee members, Superintendent Jake Langlais shared the additional reduction option during a joint workshop with the City Council on Monday. Langlais also previously recommended that the district cut 65 positions, roughly two-thirds of which are vacant.

Concurrent reductions in funding from the state and federal governments paired with a significant rise in costs have left Lewiston schools with a $7.8 million shortfall in the initial budget proposal of $105.7 million, a 7% increase from the current budget of $98.8 million.

Langlais has suggested nearly $4 million in cuts since this first proposal. If the School Committee approves these cuts, the reduced $101.8 million budget would fall to a 3% increase from the current budget.

But cutting funds for out-of-district placements is “a little bit of a gamble,” Langlais said. If a spot in one of these specialized programs opens up, the district is obligated by law to pay tuition and transportation fees for the student to attend.

Assistant Superintendent Karen Paquette said administrators do not have a backup plan if the district were to run out of money for out-of-district placements next year.


There are 113 special education students enrolled in out-of-district programs, Director of Special Education Kristen Crafts said Monday. Another 40 to 60 Lewiston students are on waiting lists, City Council representative Linda Scott said.

Officials are betting that this trend will continue, and not all students who need specialized programming will be able to get it.

“This (budget) is lean,” Langlais said. “Really, really lean, especially in special (education).”

Out-of-district placements are extraordinarily expensive. Transportation and tuition fees for a single student often costs the district tens of thousands of dollars each. In the 2021-22 school year, Lewiston schools spent less than $16,000 per student, on average.

“The cost (for outplacement students) is tremendous,” Ward 7 City Councilor Stephanie Gelinas said. “And yet, I look at the potential reductions, and they’re all in-house special educators … I feel like we’re just setting ourselves up to do more out-placing of students, as opposed to pulling our students in.”

Bolstering Lewiston’s special education program and bringing out-of-district students back could result in significant savings in the long-run, she added.


More than half of the 65 positions slated to be cut are in special education, including two resource room teachers, 12 behavioral health professionals and 22 education technicians.

The problem, Langlais said, is hiring special education staff.

“We have room in our programs to grow, (but) we have to properly staff it,” Langlais said. “Staffing is incredibly challenging, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

Last year, the district restructured its special education program, aiming to bring back some out-of-district students. Educating students within Lewiston schools is far cheaper than sending them to specialized programs, Langlais said.

The restructuring seems to be working so far, Crafts said. With the addition of several recent hires, the district has been able to bring some students back to in-district programs.

If the program moves in the direction administrators hope, Langlais said the district will need to add back special education positions.

“Ultimately, over a multiyear cycle of us maintaining these efforts and staying committed to it, should save Lewiston taxpayers a lot of money … and it should allow our kids, most importantly, to stay home where really they belong, if we can provide the services,” Langlais said.

City councilors provided little indication regarding the level of increase in the school budget they would support.

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