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State Board of Education increases its ask for special ed

Posted Date: 04/13/2022

State Board of Education increases its ask for special ed

When legislators return for the omnibus session to work on school funding, they will be asked to increase special education by $155 million. 

The State Board of Education on Tuesday voted 6-4 to increase its ask from $68 million to $155 million, saying that increasing special education costs were eating into non-special education funding and causing districts to fall further behind. 

The action follows a move by Johnson County school superintendents to seek increased special education funding.  

They noted the state can afford to meet its statutory obligation that Kansas pays 92 percent of special education costs because of a record state budget surplus. Failing to provide the statutory level of special education funding means other resources are taken. 

 “Funding these services is the right thing to do,” the superintendents of Olathe, Shawnee Mission, De Soto, and Spring Hill wrote in a letter to Gov. Laura Kelly. “At the same time, it takes away resources that we desperately need for other things. We make sure that our special education students have the resources they need but we do it at the expense of other students and programs.” 

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education had requested a $68 million increase each year for the next five years to bring special education funding to 92 percent level. 

Currently, there is a much lower proposal before legislators to increase special education by $7.5 million. But such an increase in a $1.1 billion special education budget would cause the state to fall further behind in reaching the 92 percent of special education costs. In addition, federal COVID-19 related funds are expected to lapse in 2024, causing school districts to fall $155 million short. 

State Board of Education Chairman Jim Porter, R-Fredonia, and Vice Chair Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City, met on Monday with Gov. Kelly to talk about several education bills and special education funding. Porter said he received no commitments from Kelly on special education, but Porter encouraged the board to advocate for the higher position. 

But several other board members said since they have been advocating for the $68 million they should stick with that position. Even the $68 million is unlikely from the Legislature, they said. 

On the motion to increase the special education request, Porter, Waugh, Betty Arnold, D-Wichita, Melanie Haas, D-Overland Park, Jean Clifford, R-Garden City, and Jim McNiece, R-Wichita, voted for the proposal while Deena Horst, R-Salina, Ann Mah, D-Topeka, Ben Jones, R-Sterling, and Michelle Dombrosky, R-Olathe, voted against it. 

Last month, during debate on a funding bill, the House approved the State Board’s $68 million proposal in an amendment brought by state Rep. Jarrod Ousley, D-Merriam. But minutes later, House Republican leaders forced a reconsideration vote and the measure was defeated.  

 The omnibus session starts April 25.