Kansas Senate rejects K-12 school budget to change special education spending calculations – Top Stories (Trending Perfect)


The Kansas Senate blocked the K-12 school budget on Thursday after strong opposition from public education groups.

The Kansas Senate voted 12-26 to reject the proposed budget that fully funded schools, provided $77.5 million in new special education funding, but changed the way the state calculates special education spending. The House of Representatives had approved the bill by a narrow majority earlier today.

Leading public education advocates, including the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas National Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union, have opposed the measure, arguing that it amounts to an accounting trick that deprives schools of funding for students with disabilities who need it most. .

“This bill does not include a long-term plan to fully fund special education. Instead, it provides a one-time $77 million increase, along with a series of accounting tricks to falsely promise to fully fund special education in the future,” the groups said in a statement Wednesday. “.

The bill's failure would likely mean the Legislature would begin a weeks-long recess on Friday without passing funding for public schools.

In recent years, public education advocates have loudly called for a massive increase in private education funding. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has proposed such an influx — an increase of $375 million over the next five years in installments of $75 million.

Instead, the Republican-drafted bill allocates $77.5 million in new money while counting local discretionary dollars as part of the state's education spending — an accounting maneuver that could bring Kansas into compliance with spending requirements without significant increases in funding.

Many Republicans joined Democrats in rejecting the bill, arguing that it hurts their local school districts that rely on that funding and would create an excuse for the Legislature to underfund special education in the future.

Rep. Bill Clifford, a Republican from Garden City, opposed the bill and referred to the amendments to the special education formula as a “shell game.”

“My school districts are definitely going to be negatively impacted at some point,” he said.

Senate Democrats spoke out against the bill, arguing it had not been adequately studied and could hurt districts across the state. “This is something we should all be concerned about,” said Sen. Cindy Holscher, a Democrat from Overland Park.

Republican supporters argued that the money was intended for special education students and should be spent that way.

“Over the last seven years, LOB funds generated from excess costs for special education students have not gone to the special education fund where they rightfully should go, but have gone to the general fund, the athletic fund, or the augmentation fund,” said Rep. Scott Hill, a Republican from Abilene. “Salary of the Supervisory Fund.”

“Increasing our responsibility to special education while at the same time cleaning up what local districts are doing with special education dollars makes sense.”

Rep. Christy Williams, a Republican from Augusta, argued that Kelly's plan would depart from normal financing practices.

She said the Legislature cannot compel future legislatures to commit to funding. New dollars for special education will always come, she said.

“I want to make sure special education is funded today and this gives them $77.5 million more than they had,” she said.

The Star's Jenna Barackman and Sarah Ritter contributed reporting



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