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School board discusses special education hurdles

Special education co-op hit by state funding cuts

Staff writer

Marion County Special Education Cooperative will have to find ways to patch a $557,000 budget shortfall in 2011, MCSEC and USD 410 Board of Education member Debbie Geis told the Hillsboro school board Monday.

The cooperative is another victim of state budget woes, as state funding for special education was cut significantly, she said.

The funding method for special education makes it more difficult to close the budget gap. Kansas provides funding based on the number of special education teachers rather than students, which makes cutting teaching positions less attractive than it is for schools.

“I just don’t see the co-op being able to cut that much,” Superintendent Steve Noble said.

It is difficult to project further than one year, he said.

Board President Eddie Weber asked what the advantages of the cooperative were compared with USD 410 handling all of its own special education needs.

Benefits include sharing services that the district doesn’t need full time, such as speech therapy, Geis said. Special education costs can change dramatically from one year to the next, so participating in the cooperative also spreads some of the risk among the member districts.

Another complication for the cooperative was Peabody-Burns USD 398’s announcement that it wants to withdraw from the co-op. Four of the five board members would have to approve the withdrawal, and the Kansas State Board of Education would have to deem the district capable of meeting its special education needs, Geis said.

Board to try paperless meeting

The school board will give a paperless meeting a trial run in February, using the district’s Blackboard online platform. The effort could save some money, but it also would show teachers and staff that the board is willing to make an effort to reduce expenses, Noble said.

Board members that do not have laptop computers could use one of the district’s spare student laptops during the meeting. If going paperless isn’t practical, the board can return to using paper agendas and appendices.

Governor proposes increasing school funding

Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson proposed adding a 1-percent sales tax for three years to help balance the state budget during his State of the State Address Monday, Board Clerk Jerry Hinerman told the school board.

Part of that money would be used to provide an extra $50 per pupil to schools. That wouldn’t make up all of the cuts the state has implemented, but it is better than nothing, he said.

In other business:

  • Hillsboro High School language arts teacher Darrel Knoll gave a presentation about his use of Blackboard in his class. It allows him to post announcements, have students take tests online, and create discussion boards.
  • The board met in closed session for about an hour with Noble and building principals to discuss personnel. On return to open session, the board approved adding a one-year rollover to Noble’s contract.
  • The board approved contracts for Justin Moore to be an assistant baseball coach and Teal Stutzman to be an assistant middle school wrestling coach. Moore will earn $2,480, and Stutzman will earn $886.
  • The board met in closed session for five minutes to discuss matters related to negotiation. No action was taken afterward.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting will be 7 p.m. Feb. 8.

Last modified Jan. 13, 2010

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