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Corrections budget approved in House cuts funds for educating young offenders

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, at 7:42 p.m.

The Corrections budget that won tentative approval in the House on Wednesday cuts education funding for juvenile offenders by more than $600,000 from what the governor proposed.

The reduction comes after a previous cut of $1 million.

A Senate bill would keep the governor’s requested funding of $3.1 million for juvenile offenders’ education.

Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said the cut won’t be permanent if Corrections can answer some of his questions. In an e-mail sent Tuesday, he accused the Juvenile Justice Authority of not being forthcoming with information about the cost of education services.

“When JJA was asked by the Appropriations committee to give specifics on the educational plans and programs last year, they could not,” Rhoades said. This year the committee is still waiting on specific cost information, he said, and so decided to reduce the funds by 20 percent until “sometime this session we get those answers.”

Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for Corrections, said these questions have been addressed. He said the percentage of special education students at the state’s two juvenile correctional facilities is five times that of other Kansas schools. He also noted that the department is required to educate male and female juvenile offenders separately, which adds costs.

Barclay said the state is funding education at a lower per-pupil rate than surrounding states: at about $10,000 per pupil compared with more than $13,000 in Oklahoma.

Rhoades said the state’s rate exceeded $13,000 per pupil before last year’s cut.

Barclay encouraged legislators to remember the rationale behind providing juvenile offenders with education services.

“This (money) is dedicated to reducing the recidivism … and helping these kids getting onto the straight and narrow, so that they continue that way in life as opposed to just continuing turning through the criminal justice system,” Barclay said.

Jon Hummel, Gov. Sam Brownback’s interim budget director, said the governor wants full funding for juvenile education. He noted that it’s still early in the budget process.

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