WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas State Department of Education said according to state law, 98% of special education funding is supposed to be paid for by the state. This year they claim we’re sitting at around 76%.
“We have not actually been at 92% since 2011,” said Craig Neuenswander, Deputy Commissioner of fiscal and administrative services at the Kansas Department of Education.
Neuenswander said every dollar that isn’t funded by the state, school districts must make up.
“When the money is short, they can’t cut special education. they have to cut another program and then move that money over to provide special education services,” continued Neuenswander.
This is a dilemma for educators like Kyle Carlin, a director of special education in West-Central Kansas.
“If the funding does continue in the trend that it’s going, we’re gonna have to make tougher decisions about some of our programming and how and where can we work can we reduce staffing so that we can save a little bit of money but still meet those needs,” mentioned Carlin.
Carlin mentioned this strain ends up affecting all students, not just the ones in special ed.
“That often means higher caseload or higher class sizes,” added Carlin.
As a former educator, Representative Chuck Schmidt is an advocate for full funding.
“For the money that we spend, to try to help them oftentimes will come back in multiples by the fact that they can maintain a life themselves,” said Schmidt.
Despite the 3 billion dollar surplus, Senator Molly Baumgardner said 92 percent is a goal that may not be met this year.
“I’m going to put this right at the feet of the governor she’s asked for two things quite specifically. She wants a food sales tax cut. Very expensive. The governor also wants us with the funds that are available to give an income tax rebate of $250,” said Baumgardner.
The Kansas legislature returns on Monday, April 25 for the veto session.
Schmidt and Baumgardner said fully funding special education is not completely off the table.