Sen. Bruce Givens relied on three decades of work as a special education administrator Wednesday to justify legislation overhauling how the state allocates money to public schools serving students with special needs.
Instead of reimbursing each district for expenditures on special education after conclusion of the school year, the El Dorado Republican’s bill would calculate appropriations based on the amount paid to a district in the previous year. He wants to keep funding tied to how many full-time equivalent special education teachers a district employed.
“It would not reduce the funding that schools get,” he told the Senate Education Committee. “It would create funding that could be counted on for budget building purposes.”
Under the current funding model, a school district doesn’t learn the level of reimbursement from the state until mid-June after the school year is already over.
Givens said this bill is designed to provide districts a concrete amount they are to receive in the new school year so administrators can budget more accurately.
The bill will likely not move out of the committee this session, said committee chairwoman Molly Baumgardner, a Republican senator from Louisburg. She said the information about the bill may impact work by the Legislature in 2021.
The Cowley County Special Services Cooperative, made up of six school district superintendents, asked Givens in a letter to support the bill and requested the funding plan be considered this legislative session. The superintendents said the current plan makes it challenging to hire and retain special education teachers.
“These hardships have a direct impact on the quality of educational services children with exceptionalities receive,” Winfield public schools special education director Ron Sarnacki wrote in the letter. “It makes sense to devise a plan this legislative session to increase special education funding over the course of the next several years.”
Givens said he wants the state to eventually transition to a funding system based on both the number of special education teachers and the number of children in the district served by special education programs.