Kansas leaders call on Congress to keep commitment, fund special education

FILE(Phil Anderson | File/WIBW)
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 12:02 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas leaders have called on Congress to keep its commitment and completely fund special education as it continues to cost the stat $300 million each year.

On Thursday, March 16, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she was joined by Kansas legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle - Senate President Ty Masterson (R-Andover), Speaker of the House Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes (D-Lenexa) and House Minority Leader Vic Miller (D-Topeka) to sign a letter.

Gov. Kelly indicated that the letter calls on Congress to increase federal funding for special education services. For nearly half a century, she said the federal government has failed to meet funding commitments for special education services which has cost the Sunflower State about $300 million each year.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done here in Kansas to fully fund our public schools. But special education is still not fully funded, in part because our partners in Washington have not delivered the federal funding they promised for special education services,” Kelly said. “Now, I’m joining our Legislative leaders in calling on Congress to fulfill its promise and to do better by our students, parents, and teachers.”

Passed by Congress in 1975, the Governor noted that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act makes the federal government responsible for 40% of the average per-pupil expenditures for special education while states cover the rest. However, this commitment has never been met, with federal funds hovering around 15%.

“Congress has failed to provide Kansas schools hundreds of millions of dollars it’s promised for special education. That’s why the Kansas House passed a Special Education Resolution urging Congress to fully fund its original funding obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” Hawkins said. “Now, with this letter, we hope to send a clear message that Kansas leadership is aligned in supporting our delegation in Congress and all efforts to fulfill the promise made to our kids.”

Kelly also said the funding gap puts an undue financial burden on Kansas, school districts and taxpayers.

“The federal government must hold up its end of the bargain and ensure special education students have the resources and support they need to succeed,” Sykes said. “The underfunding has made it harder for students and teachers in the classroom. This letter serves as a call to Congress that Kansas kids cannot be left behind.”

The Governor said increased federal funds for special education will allow Kansas to better serve students with disabilities as well as those in gifted programs as both programs are funded by special education. If the government met its commitment, she said Kansas school districts could improve early intervention services, hire and retain qualified professionals and invest in resources that support student growth.

“Kansas kids and teachers need this funding, long story short. We can only do so much at the state level, and without cooperation from Congress, our efforts are needlessly stunted,” said Miller. “Public schools have been through a lot in the past couple of years. Helping them continue recovery should be at the top of our to-do lists.”

To read the full text of the letter, click HERE.