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Governor highlights importance of special education with visit to Topeka school

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Governor Laura Kelly visited a Topeka school to highlight the importance of a fully funded special education department.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she visited Jardine Elementary and Middle School in Topeka on Tuesday, Feb. 21 as she toured special education classrooms to discuss the importance of a fully funded special education department.

“Before I took office, our public schools were not receiving the funds they needed to grow our students. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to fully fund public education for four consecutive years, but we can’t leave a single student behind,” Governor Kelly said. “Every student deserves resources and support to succeed in the classroom. My budget puts Kansas on track to fully fund special education for the first time in over a decade. We owe it to our students to fully fund special education.”

Kelly noted that she was joined by Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson as well as General Manager of Special Education Dr. Jennifer Harrington, Principal of Jardine Elementary School Angela Pomery and Principal of the Jardine Mike Haire Middle School.

“An investment in comprehensive special education funding is an investment in the health and well-being of every student in Kansas,” said Dr. Anderson. “Comprehensive funding of special education is critical to our students and our education system as a whole and represents a step forward in addressing the needs of the whole child. To support all Kansas students, we must ensure that comprehensive special education funding is a top priority. We thank Governor Kelly for taking the time to address the needs of special education programs across the state.”

Kelly indicated that the roundtable discussion focused on how districts use special education funds to prepare students for the workforce, how special education funding allows schools to invest in other areas, and why investments in this area save the state money in the long run.

“As a parent, I believe it is critical that we fully fund our public schools, including our special education programs, because all students deserve a quality education that meets their needs,” said Sarah Meyer, Topeka $501 parent of two students receiving special education services. “I am grateful to Governor Laura Kelly for giving us the opportunity to speak freely and discuss solutions to such an important issue at today’s panel discussion. I hope members of the Legislature unite to secure full funding for special education.”

The Governor said the following professionals and parents were included in the discussion:

  • Erin Norwood: Paraprofessional at State Street Elementary School and recipient of the 2021 USD 501 Distinguished Paraprofessional Award;
  • Sarah Sharp: General Manager of Early Childhood and Elementary Education for Topeka USD 501
  • Billie Wallace: The Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning for Topeka USD 501;
  • Megan Maness: French Elementary Special Education teacher and 2023 Kansas Horizon Award winner;
  • Allen Lake: special education counseling teacher at McEachron Elementary;
  • Cori Hare: special education teacher and coordinator at Jardine Elementary School;
  • Kara Schuetz: Early Childhood Special Education Coordinator who also oversees Department of School Psychology and Suicide Prevention and Threat Assessments among Topeka Schools USD 501, and;
  • Sara Meyer: $501 parent Topeka

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