It made sense when El Dorado became a Special Education Cooperative sponsoring district in 1978.
But now that U.S.D. 490 is the third largest district in the cooperative – and will soon be the fourth largest if trends continue – that arrangement isn’t as logical.
In comparison, Butler County Special Education Director Greg Buster said that in Salina’s Special Education Cooperative – which has about the same number of students as the Butler County Cooperative - that district carries 49 percent of the students in the cooperative. El Dorado, on the other hand, has only 16 percent of the student population in the Butler County Cooperative.
With Augusta and Rose Hill as larger districts and Circle close behind, El Dorado is put in a difficult position.
“When people compare administrative costs, ours appear to be high,” said Superintendent Sue Givens. “If you remove the special education costs, we are the lowest per pupil. But as it stands now, we look like the third highest percentage in the state.”
The answer to the problem would be to remove El Dorado as a sponsoring district and create a a separate interlocal agreement.
In that arrangement, the special education costs would be paid by local districts in the same way, but those costs would be managed and controlled by a special school board established for the purpose of providing services for students with Emotional Disturbances, Visual Impairments, Learning Disabilities, Speech and Language Impairments, Physical Impairments, Early Childhood Special Education, Intellectual Disabilities, Severe Multiple Disabilities, Hearing Impairments, Gifted, Autism, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and Other Health Impairments.
The main barrier to the new arrangement according to Buster would be the time and effort it took to make the change and also potential push back from cooperative members.
“We have a very good group right now,” Buster said of the members of the cooperative. “But this would require a lot of time over a couple of years.”
The school board asked administration and staff to bring a timeline and a proposal to the board at the October meeting so that they could pursue the idea further.