TOPEKA – Today, Governor Laura Kelly was joined by Kansas legislative leaders of both parties – Senate President Ty Masterson, Speaker of the House Dan Hawkins, Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, and House Minority Leader Vic Miller – in signing a letter that calls on Congress to increase federal funding for special education services. For nearly 50 years, the federal government has failed to meet its funding commitment for special education services to states, costing Kansas $300 million annually.
“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,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “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 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) commits the federal government to covering up to 40% of the average per pupil expenditures for special education, with states covering the rest. This commitment has never been met, with federal funding hovering around 15%. The funding gap places an undue financial burden on Kansas, school districts, and taxpayers.
“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,” Kansas Speaker of the House Dan 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.”
“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,” Kansas Senate Minority Leader Dinah 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.”
“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 House Minority Leader Vic 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.”
Increased federal funding for special education will allow the state to better serve Kansas students with disabilities, as well as those in gifted programs, which are funded by special education. If the federal government met its commitment, Kansas school districts could improve early intervention services, hire and retain qualified education professionals, and invest in resources that support student growth.