Special Ed Funding Snag Frustrates Nokomis Board

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The question of who gets state money for special education may simmer to a boil, members of the Nokomis School Board learned at their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the unit office.

The regular meeting followed a five-minute public hearing on the fiscal year 2020 budget, one that Superintendent Dr. Scott Doerr described as "balanced across all funds."

"Although fairly conservative in my numbers as I always am, the budget remains in the black," the superintendent said during the hearing.  Later in the regular meeting, board members gave their unanimous approval to the budget.

Dr. Doerr described the new Nokomis, Pana and Taylorville (NPT) special education cooperative as "functioning very well," but described a disagreement with Mid State Special Education (MSSE)–the cooperative in which the three school districts were formerly members–over state funding.

The superintendent told board members that in May after the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved the new cooperative's comprehensive plan, the state indicated that a letter was all that was needed to transfer base funding.

"That was done successfully," Dr. Doerr said.  "However, in August ISBE notified me that now we have to have an agreement with MSSE to transfer that money over to NPT.  Now, just to be clear, this is not the grant; we already have it and it has been approved.  These are state funds to help run special education.  MSSE has refused to sign the agreement to this point."

The superintendent said at their last meeting, MSSE agreed to begin negotiations in mid-October, and that the state is not issuing any payments to any of the 16 districts in MSSE and NPT until the agreement is signed.

"For us, this is over $116,000 per year," Doerr said.

The superintendent also reported that while the percentage of state funding for regular transportation is up form 82 to 86 percent,  special ed transportation funding is down from 97 to 82 percent, "so it about equals out for us."

He also told board members he would be getting pricing for a large van and new mower to potentially replace unreliable ones.

Board members approved a consent agenda that included the administrative salary compensation report, certified staff compensation report, a field trip request for the German Club to attend "Christkindlmarket" in Chicago on Dec. 6, and for the FFA to attend the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY, on Feb. 12.

Board members also approved a reciprocal reporting agreement with the local law enforcement, and intergovernmental agreement with Schools of Illinois Public Cooperative, memorandums of understanding with the Nokomis Education Association and Local 148, and approved the creation of a self-funded trap team (Carl Fesser and Ben Tarter voted against).

The board adjourned after an hour-long closed session.

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