Gov. highlights importance of special education with visit to Topeka school

Governor Laura Kelly visits Jardine Elementary and Middle School on Feb. 21, 2023.
Governor Laura Kelly visits Jardine Elementary and Middle School on Feb. 21, 2023.(Office of the Kansas Governor)
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 1:24 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly visited a Topeka school to highlight the importance of a fully funded special education department.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she visited Jardine Elementary and Middle School in Topeka 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 getting the funds they needed for our students to thrive. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to fully fund public education for four years in a row, but we can’t leave a single student behind,” Gov. 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 USD 501 Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson, as well as General Director of Special Education Dr. Jennifer Harrington, Jardine Elementary Principal Angela Pomery and Jardine Middle School Principal Mike Haire.

“An investment in fully funding special education is an investment in the health and well-being of every student in Kansas,” Dr. Anderson said. “Fully funding special education is crucial to our students and to 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 fully funding special education is a top priority. We thank Governor Kelly for making 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 funding special education frees up schools to invest in other areas and why investments in this area save the state money in the long term.

“As a parent, I believe it is crucial that we fully fund our public schools, including our special education programs, because all students deserve a quality education that suits their needs,” said Sarah Meyer, Topeka USD 501 parent of two students who receive special education services. “I’m grateful to Governor Laura Kelly for giving us the opportunity to speak freely and discuss solutions to such an important issue in today’s roundtable discussion. I hope those in the legislature will come together to ensure we fully fund 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: Director General of Early Childhood & Elementary Education for Topeka USD 501
  • Billie Wallace: the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning for Topeka USD 501;
  • Megan Maness: Special Education teacher at French Elementary School and the 2023 Kansas Horizon Award recipient;
  • Allen Lake: Special Education Consulting 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 the Department of School Psychology and suicide prevention and threat assessments among Topeka USD 501 schools, and;
  • Sara Meyer: Topeka USD 501 parent
  • Tom Hallacy: Superintendent of Shawnee Heights USD 450