Each and every day, students, staff, and families work together to help students in Shawnee Mission’s Special Education programs achieve their personal best.
This week, Governor Laura Kelly visited Shawnee Mission South High School to learn about special education programs in Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) schools. While touring, she took time to talk with those who have first-hand knowledge of just how important these programs are.
“It is so important that we keep public dollars in public schools and put Kansas on track to fully funding Special Education so our students can continue to succeed,” Kelly emphasized.
Governor Kelly’s tour came as legislators continue to debate Special Education funding levels in the state of Kansas. The statutory funding formula has not been fully funded in the state of Kansas since 2009. Shawnee Mission fully pays for required and additional Special Education services for each student. But, in order to do so, Shawnee Mission has been forced to shift funding from other areas of the budget to fill the Special Education budget hole that state funding does not fill.
Shawnee Mission advocates that Special Education services be fully funded at the level outlined by state law.
“I want to be clear that we are still meeting all student needs in regard to Special Education,” Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard noted. “Fully funding Special Education supports all kids in Shawnee Mission and that is what we are about.”
At Shawnee Mission South, Kelly spent time talking to students enrolled in gifted services, students in Shawnee Mission’s Post-High Transition program, Unified Bowling athletes, Special Education staff, and parents of students in Special Education programs.
Alexander Maret, SM South senior, was one of the first to talk with Kelly during her visit. Maret talked about his experience in the Students Examining and Experiencing Knowledge (SEEK) program. This is an elective course offered to students identified as gifted that provides curriculum beyond what is offered in the general education classroom. In Kansas, gifted education is a category of Special Education. Maret talked about the difference the program has made on his school experience and sense of belonging.
“When you feel like you fit in, it is easier to express yourself,” Maret shared with the Governor.
Parent Mike Dugan joined a panel of parents who gathered to talk to the Governor about their experiences with their children enrolled in Shawnee Mission Special Education programs.
“If I’m going to live by my words, every child needs the best chance to become a fully functional adult,” he said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, that takes funds. We need to get to the point where students can reach their highest potential.”
Special educators had a few moments to talk to Governor Kelly about their typical work day and about the students they serve each day. Paraeducator Tarrale Johnson expressed to the Governor that this position is right where he wants to be.
“Changing lives and making people smile was what I wanted to do,” he added.
To close her visit, Governor Kelly thanked everyone for the work that went into putting the day together, and highlighted the importance of public education to the state of Kansas, and specifically, the value of special education.
“People in the state of Kansas fully support public schools and Special Education,” Governor Kelly noted.