Special education students will see big changes in Butler County schools.
Up to 20 staff members are being let go from the nine districts, said Greg Buster, director of the Butler County Special Education Cooperative. The cuts are attributed to a loss in state funding. The jobs at risk may include teachers, social workers and those working in psychological services.
MOVING TOWARD AN INTERLOCAL PROGRAM
The Butler County Special Education Cooperative is moving to become an inter-local program, Buster said. Up until recently, the El Dorado Board of Education controlled the program, but the district decided to move toward including all nine districts in the decision-making process. Staff members were notified of the change, let go and then some were rehired back into the inter-local program.
"It may look a little different. It may be different faces on the provider, but that's why we're in the business," Buster said. "We want to provide the best that we can for all of our students. We have issues that we have to deal with. We have constraining events and things happen. We have to make hard decisions."
School districts affected include Andover, Augusta, Bluestem, Circle, Douglass, El Dorado, Flint Hills, Remington and Rose Hill. Buster said Andover, Augusta, El Dorado and Rose Hill will likely be the most influenced because of their size.
"Although we are all being affected by reductions in state support, we are committed to not letting this shortfall impact the services we deliver to students," said Brett White, assistant superintendent of human resources for Andover Public Schools. "Our goal is to continue to meet the needs of all of our students in the Andover District."
From the 2011 school year until now, the county has lost about $600,000 in funding from the state, Buster said. Most classrooms have anywhere from 12 to 20 students, but that could increase with the change. Some superintendents said schools will consolidate staff; positions like social workers may float between schools or districts.
Just as state funding has changed over the years, so has staffing, said Dale Dennis, Deputy Commissioner The Division of Fiscal and Administrative Services for the Kansas State Department of Education.
Dennis said the law requires that special education is funded at 92 percent of excess costs. State funding is currently at 80 percent of excess costs.
In the 2008-09 school year, state aid was at $427.7 million. It's currently at $428.7 million. However, he said the number of teachers had increased to where the amount is spread more thinly among schools. Categorical spending in 2008-09 was at $28,760 per teacher. In the 2013-14 school year, it's $27,750.
"We'll be a little bit leaner, but services to kids should continue," Butler said. "I think we have good services, and I envision that we'll be able to continue those, even though we may have fewer staff members and increase some case loads around. But some of that's just balancing. In some of our school districts, we have high student-to-staff ratios and others that don't."