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Kelly signs education budget and policy bundle, asks Legislature to fully fund special education

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TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly signed Monday a bill providing more than $6 billion for K-12 education and making several policy changes, including a controversial provision allowing students to openly transfer to districts around Kansas.

House Bill 2567 fully funds public education, according to the Gannon school finance settlement, Kelly noted in signing the bill. The Democratic governor also said the measure would provide significant investments in mental health, safety and other educational initiatives. 

“I am pleased to be able to uphold my commitment to fully fund our public schools,” Kelly said. “Providing schools with the funding and resources they need will create lifelong learners, which are the foundation of our state’s strong workforce and future economic growth.”

Before Kelly signed the bill, House members approved it 75 to 45, as did the Senate by a vote of 24 to 14.

Absent from the law, which packages more than a dozen policy provisions, is an additional $150 million for special education services in Kansas sought by school administrators and families alike. Some groups have called on Kelly to veto the bill in hopes it would lead legislators to reconsider this point.

Recent revenue projections give Kansas more than a $3 billion surplus, and as such many stakeholders argue the state can afford to fund the excess costs. Some GOP legislators have argued the state does meet the 92% threshold according to “raw numbers” and that these concerns are overblown.

But Kansas State Department of Education estimates suggest that without adjustment, special education would be funded at 76%. Based on those same calculations, Kansas has not reached 92% since 2010.

Kelly recommended an additional $30 million to increase special education services in April.

“Republicans and Democrats agree funds for special education are vital for our schools to provide quality instruction to special education students,” Kelly said. “I call on the legislature to swiftly appropriate these funds when they return on May 23rd.”

Kelly also urged legislators to review the provision requiring school districts to set policies allowing enrollment of out-of-district students.

Under that section of the law, districts would need to determine a capacity level for each grade and school building and, if under that number, would be required to allow students to transfer in. If demand exceeds the number of empty seats, a lottery would be held.

The “school choice” measure allowing open enrollment is another in a series of similar bills allowing students easier routes to better-performing public schools and private institutions. 

“Before taking effect during the 2024-2025 school year, the Legislature must work with educators and administrators to make the necessary modifications to ensure that elected school board members maintain local control,” Kelly said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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