Special Education Funding

Matthew Willis
Senior Research Analyst

J.G. Scott
Director of Legislative Research

Federal law, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures a free appropriate education to children with disabilities. Kansas law also sets guidelines for special education.

Individual Education Program (IEP)

IEPs are written statements for each student with an exceptionality. The IEP describes a child’s educational program and is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with special education laws and regulations. IEPs are developed through a team, which includes parents, school professionals, the student (when appropriate), and personnel from other agencies, as appropriate. The IEP should also set goals for the child toward becoming a member of their community and the workforce and set measurable annual goals that are specific and well-defined.

Prior to a student being evaluated for special education and related services, all interventions must have already been exhausted in the regular classroom environment. After all interventions have been tried in the regular classroom, the student may be recommended to receive special education and related services.

The special education service process can be understood through a two-prong approach: The first prong determines whether the child is eligible for services, and the second prong determines whether the child has a need for services.

Special Education State Aid

Current law provides for Special Education State Aid in the form of reimbursement for the excess costs associated with providing special education services. Excess costs include, but are not limited to, Medicaid replacement state aid, catastrophic aid, transportation aid, and special education teacher aid.

KSA 72-3422 sets the reimbursement rate for Special Education State Aid (also known as categorical aid) at 92.0 percent of total state excess costs, but provides for prorating state aid if the appropriation for Special Education State Aid does not equal 92.0 percent of excess costs. In any year when the appropriation for Special Education State Aid is not sufficient to cover 92.0 percent of statewide excess costs, state aid is distributed at a prorated amount for special education teacher aid.

Federal aid for special education remains relatively static and is provided directly to school districts and through the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). Federal aid requires a maintenance of effort by the State, meaning that expenditures for special education in the current fiscal year must be at least as much as expenditures for special education in the prior year.

Special Education and Related Services Weighting (KSA 72-5157)

As enacted, the Kansas School Equity and Enhancement Act (KSEEA) includes a special education weighting. The weighting is calculated by dividing the amount of Special Education State Aid a district receives by the Base Aid for Student Excellence (BASE) for the current school year. The resulting quotient is the special education weighting and is added to a school district’s weighted full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment. However, this weighting does not increase the amount of State Foundation Aid a school district is entitled to. As the amount of Special Education State Aid a district receives is defined as Local Foundation Aid, the value of the weighting is deducted when computing a district’s State Foundation Aid entitlement. The purpose of this weighting is to increase the amount of school district Total Foundation Aid for the purposes of calculating their Local Option Budget.

IDEA Funding

The federal IDEA requires states to provide special education services to children with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21. This includes children with developmental delays, hearing or visual impairments, emotional disturbances, or autism. IDEA requires each special education student to receive an IEP. In Kansas, the Special Education or Exceptional Children Act (SEECA) (KSA 72-3403 through 72-3441) is generally the same as the federal law but imposes additional special education requirements on school districts.

These include:

  • Identifying and providing services to gifted students;
  • Using interventions in the regular education classroom before referring a student to special education; and
  • Providing special education services to children who reside in the district but attend a private school.

KSDE provides training and technical assistance to school districts for the provision of special education services.

COVID-19 IDEA Funding

The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included appropriations for IDEA, including $2.6 billion for IDEA Part B Grants to States and $200.0 million for IDEA Part B Preschool Grants. Kansas has received $25.3 million and $2.2 million, respectively. IDEA Part B funding helps State Educational Agencies (SEAs), and eligible Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), in offering special education services to children with disabilities.

SEAs may reserve a portion of the Grants to States funding for state-level activities consistent with existing federal law, under § 611 and § 618 of ARPA. The portion that can be reserved under § 611(e) is based on the rate of inflation, so states cannot reserve more funding than the amount that would be reserved under the normal IDEA Part B funding. However, the portion that can be reserved for administration and other state-level services in § 619(d) is based on the rate of inflation or the increase of the state’s allocation, so the additional funding under ARPA may allow for the SEA to reserve additional funding for state-level needs. LEAs must have established eligibility under § 613 and must use the funding only to pay for excess costs for special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

IDEA includes a maintenance of effort requirement for both states and LEAs. Kansas and the unified school districts (USDs) cannot reduce the funding for special education services for children with disabilities below the funding for the prior fiscal year. States may seek a waiver from this requirement on a year-by-year basis for exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances. This funding is available until September 30, 2023.