As if the Olathe and Blue Valley School Districts haven't had enough bad news. Now comes Senate bill - SB 359.
The Senate Education Committee approved bill SB 359 that could reduce the amount of special-education dollars for the Blue Valley and Olathe School District in Johnson County, Kansas by approximately $7 million.
That’s on top of millions more already lost in state aid since the school year began July 1.
Gary George, an assistant superintendent with Olathe schools, said his district will lose about $2 million this year if the Senate bill — SB 359 — passes the Legislature. George noted that Olathe has already lost about $14 million this year in general state aid and county sales tax. And the Senate bill approved Monday applies to the current year’s school budgets.
“It pulls the rug out from underneath us because we and everybody else have been planning based on what we thought we had in place last summer,” George said.
Sixteen years ago, lawmakers created a fund to help local districts, like the Olathe and Blue Valley School Districts, pay for special-education students whose schooling was expensive — more than $25,000 per pupil.
The Senate bill would increase that threshold to $46,000 per pupil.
Lawmakers said they intended the money, known as “catastrophic aid” to pay for services for students whose educational needs would constitute an unusual expense for schools.
But last year the Olathe and Blue Valley School Districts changed the way they calculated special-education expenses by adding the costs of such services as busing and instruction. As a result, more special-education students qualified for catastrophic aid.
The problem has been if the Olathe and Blue Valley School Districts get more aid, less aid goes to the rest of the school districts in the State of Kansas.
Senate Bill - SB 359 looks to more evenly divide money. If passed, the funding would apply to the current year.