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Kansas Special Education Funding

Posted Date: 04/20/2022

Kansas Special Education Funding

By KASB Advocacy Intern John Forrer  

There is always something new to experience in the Kansas State Capitol. As a legislative Intern for KASB, this has been especially true. Not only have I learned a lot about public education policy in Kansas, but I have also been able to observe the political drama that happens within the walls of the Statehouse. One example of when these experiences overlapped was on the topic of special education funding. 

On March 22nd, the House was debating HB 2512, which was the new K-12 education budget bill. State Representative Jarrod Ousley, D-Merriam, offered an amendment that would add over $68 million to the budget for special education. To my surprise, the amendment narrowly passed by a vote of 58-54. However, not thirty minutes later, House Republicans voted to reconsider the amendment and it was subsequently rejected. It was this peculiar series of events that encouraged me to better understand special education funding in Kansas.  

School districts are required by both federal and state law to offer special education services to students in Kansas. In 1975, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) required that states offer special education services to children with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21. One year prior to federal law, Kansas passed the Special Education for Exception Children Act (SEECA) which mirrored federal law but also included several additional requirements.  

Since the creation of SEECA, the state has provided a portion of the funding for special education in Kansas. The most recent funding mechanism started in 2005 after the Kansas Legislature created a formula that would provide categorical aid to cover a portion of the excess costs of educating special education students. Kansas statute specifies four distinct categories of excess costs eligible for reimbursement: Medicaid replacement state aid, catastrophic aid, transportation aid, and special education teacher aid. To calculate excess costs, districts must first calculate all their special education expenditures. Then, base per-pupil state aid and federal funding are subtracted from the total expenditures. Finally, the state provides funding for a percentage of those remaining excess costs. During the 2005 special session, the funding formula was amended to provide funding for 92 percent of the excess costs by the 2006-2007 school year and for each year thereafter. However, the last time that the Legislature fully funded the 92 percent was in 2011.   

In 2018, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit released an audit report related to special education in Kansas. The report answered three questions: 

  1. What does it cost school districts to provide special education and related services?  

  1. Has special education funding been calculated and distributed in accordance with state law in recent years?  

  1. What types of funding mechanisms do other similar states use to calculate and distribute special education funding? 

While the audit detailed many interesting results, one of the more serious findings was that the Kansas Legislature was failing to meet its legal obligation to fund special education at 92 percent of the excess costs. 

In the KSDE’s budget hearing before the K-12 Education Budget Committee, Deputy Commissioner Craig Neuenswander’s testimony contained the following chart which confirmed the findings from the audit. As it stands, fiscal year 2022 estimated aid will only be 76.4 percent of the excess costs. Furthermore, the current fiscal year 2023 allocation only accounts for 70.8 percent of the excess costs. When the state fails to fund special education at 92 percent, school districts must supplement the shortfalls with money from their own general funds. Thus, while school districts will be receiving additional money from the Gannon decision, portions of the increase will have to be used to pay for special education since the Legislature has not appropriated sufficient money.  

Special Education Services State Aid Table.To counteract this underfunding, KSDE requested that $68,215,146 be added to the special education budget each year for the next five years to reach the 92 percent excess costs requirement (see chart below). The K-12 Education Budget committee did not act upon this request and instead passed the bill on to floor debate. On the floor, Rep. Ousley caught Republican lawmakers off-guard after he successfully provided the first year of KSDE’s requested increase. However, Republicans reconsidered the amendment citing the federally required maintenance of effort. Maintenance of effort requires that every state provide equal or greater special education funding compared to that of the previous year. Thus, this $68 million increase would have to be maintained for every subsequent year thereafter. Nonetheless, an increase in special education funding is necessary for lawmakers to fulfill their legal obligations.

Excess costs table

Fortunately, there is still an opportunity for the Kansas Legislature to increase special education funding. This week, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group will provide their updated report on state revenues. It is expected that the group will report higher state revenues than what was previously estimated in the Fall. In the weeks leading up to the end of the legislative session, it is possible that some of this extra money could be used to increase special education funding. KASB encourages education leaders across the state to contact their representatives and emphasize the importance of funding special education in Kansas.  

For additional information on Kansas Special Education funding, please watch the KASB State of Special Education funding discussion here:


LPA Audit 

KLRD School Finance History 1992-2016 

KLRD Kansas School Finance System 

KSDE FY22 and FY23 Budget Request