Kansas education leaders to attend NSBA conference that includes focus on IDEA

A contingent of Kansas education leaders will confer with national education leaders next week during NSBA’s Advocacy Institute, which will also feature a keynote address by U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.  

The event, running Sunday through Tuesday in Washington D.C., will kick off NSBA’s signature advocacy effort — reauthorization and modernization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Action (IDEA).  

The law, enacted in 1975, is the main federal legislation providing funding for special education. Last reauthorized in 2004, the law promised Congress would pay for 40 percent of the excess cost to educate students with disabilities, but appropriations have consistently fallen short, leaving states and local school districts to make up the difference. NSBA and other education advocates will show how IDEA has helped students succeed, work for full funding of the law, and urge Congress to streamline or simplify the law. 

Featured speakers at the Advocacy Institute include U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and keynoter Sen. Roberts, who has sponsored bipartisan legislation in previous years to support IDEA funds and chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, which deals with child nutrition and local governance flexibility for school meal programs.  

Regarding IDEA funding in Kansas, a recent state audit found that the Legislature has underfunded Kansas school districts for special education costs by upwards of $361 million under a recommended staffing level. But it is unlikely school districts could find enough teachers to fill those positions in the short term, according to the report.  

Here is a link to the Performance Audit Report on K-12 Education: Evaluating Special Education Costs, conducted by the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit. 

In 2018, Kansas schools spent nearly $900 million to provide special education services to approximately 86,500 students, which is about 18 percent of the total number of students enrolled in Kansas public schools.   

The NSBA Advocacy Institute also provides grassroots advocacy training sessions and the chance for Kansans to go to Capitol Hill to discuss K-12 issues with Kansas’ U.S. Reps. Roger Marshall, Steve Watkins, Sharice Davids and Ron Estes and Senators Jerry Moran and Roberts. The Advocacy Institute will include insights into how education policy will be affected by the relationship between the Republican-controlled White House and Senate and the Democratic-controlled House. 

Kansans attending The Institute include KASB President-Elect Shannon Kimball, Lawrence USD 497; KASB Past-President Dayna Miller, Basehor-Linwood USD 458; KASB President-Elect Designee Lori Blake, Southeast of Saline USD 306; Frank Henderson, Seaman USD 345 and NSBA Western Region Vice President; LeEtta Felter, Olathe USD 233; Heather Ousley, Shawnee Mission USD 512; Terrell Davis, Wichita USD 259 and Leah Fliter, KASB’s Advocacy and Outreach Specialist.

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