- Between 2012 and 2017, Kansas spent less than the amount required by law to cover special education costs that aren't paid for by federal aid or the basic education funding formula, The Garden City Telegram reports.
- A state audit shows that under a strategy used by former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, the state was financing this “categorical aid” at a 78% to 81% rate instead of the required 92% rate. The approach was meant to encourage districts to be “prudent” in their spending without risking the loss of federal funds, the article says.
- The plan, however, has meant that districts have had a tougher time hiring enough fully certified special education teachers, instead hiring lower-paid paraprofessionals to support students with disabilities.
Most states already face shortages of special education teachers, but districts’ ability to recruit and retain these educators is further hampered if they can’t offer competitive salaries or other incentives to attract the best candidates.
And Kansas isn’t the only state where funding for special education has not been sufficient to meet districts’ needs. Getting Down to Facts II, a large-scale research report on California’s education system released in September, showed that because special education was kept separate from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, funding to serve students with special needs “has not kept pace with district costs.”
Underfunding special education, however, is not just a state-level issue. A recent resource from the Education Commission of the States shows that the federal government is also not meeting its commitment under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to pay “40% of the cost of educating special education students in this country” — a shortfall of more than $19 billion per year. The article notes that the cooperative model — in which costs and services are shared across many schools — is one option that both districts and charter schools have for providing higher-level services at a lower expense.