May 01, 2022

LETTER: The truth behind special education funding

Posted May 01, 2022 9:59 AM

Much has been written about current state legislators not responding to special education funding and not meeting the 92% criteria on excess funding.  I would like to address those claims.

Let’s look at the numbers. To figure out Special Education spending we take the actual spending for Special Education in Kansas for 2021 of $1,017,356,006.  Then we add an increase based on an approximate 4% raise in teacher salaries of $40,694,240. Then we add in an estimated addition of 300 teachers and paraprofessionals at a cost of $71,014 per employee for a total of $21,322,200 (remember this number).  That equals a grand total of $1,079,372,446.  

Now to compute “Excess Cost Computation."  First you deduct the average per pupil cost of Regular Education ($7,909) multiplied by special education full-time equivalent pupils excluding any State Hospital residents which is 29,000 pupils ($229,361,000 – which is the increase from 2021) and then subtracted Federal Aid, Medicaid Reimbursements and State Hospitals Administrative Costs which comes to $671,784,315 which then appears that Special Education is only calculated at 76.24% and the state is required to fund excess costs at 92%.

These numbers appear dismal.  But let me tell you that these numbers don’t reflect the full story.  Base Aid per student is never that amount.  For 2023 base aid per student is $8,147.00 and special education students are weighted (which adds layers of extra funding) and for the 29,000 special education students is another $238.7 million dollars.  Federal Aid is $130.9 million, Medicaid is another $39.8 million.  That total is $936,687,918 million.  If you take this total and divide by the $1 billion in total funding reported by districts, you’ll find that the State funded at 92% of excess costs based on the raw numbers. This total for our special education population does not include bond & interest, capital equalization, local option budget, or capital outlay. Those dollars that benefit these students and all students are in addition. Therefore, there is a great disparity between what KSDE uses as their formula versus what the Legislature actually pays. 

Unencumbered funds that are held by USD 489 for special education are currently $415,888.00and have risen over the past three years.  If you remember, the state paid for 300 new teachers at a cost of over $21 million.  As we all know, there has been a teacher and paraprofessional shortage and we definitely did not hire 300 new teachers. Basically – excess funding was deposited into special education unencumbered funds totaling over $220 million. These funds increased by 15% in five years. I fail to see how the State of Kansas has NOT fulfilled its requirement for funding when I look at these numbers.  You may disagree with whether or not we should add more funding, but it would be very difficult to argue with the numbers I have provided. 

State Rep. Barb Wasinger, R-Hays, 111th District