ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The Kelly Administration has continued its busy May with several bill signings and other work.
One of these signings happened last Thursday, with Gov. Laura Kelly announcing she signed and line-item vetoed aspects of House Substitute for Senate Bill 113, the bill containing the budget for K-12 education. With her line-item vetoes, the bill fully funds K-12 education for the fifth consecutive year and protects funding for rural schools facing declining enrollment, according to a release from the State of Kansas.
“Today, I am keeping my commitment to Kansas families by fully funding our public schools for the fifth year in a row,” Gov. Kelly noted in the May 18 State of Kansas release. “What’s more, I am proud to stand up for rural schools, the heart and economic engines of communities throughout the state, by rejecting efforts to cut the funding needed to keep them open and continuing to serve Kansas students.”
In addition to funding schools in accordance with the state constitution, the signed version of SB 113 also:
• Improves School Safety: The bill includes $5 million so schools can purchase communication equipment to better coordinate with law enforcement and purchase naloxone to combat fentanyl poisoning, something Governor Kelly called for in her 2023 State of the State address.
• Empowers Parents to Be Involved in their Children’s Education: The bill includes $9.4 million for Parents as Teachers, a program that provides parents with skills and knowledge about child health and development and connects them to community-based services to assist with their child’s education.
• Supports the Teacher Workforce: The bill includes $1.8 million to support teacher professional development and $1.3 million for a program that provides teachers early in their careers with mentors to support their professional growth.
• Invests in Early Childhood Education and Literacy: The bill includes $23.7 million from the Children’s Initiative Fund for the Early Childhood Block Grant to support children’s programs with a focus on early childhood, health, mental health, and child welfare. It includes $4.2 million for a Pre-K Pilot Program to explore ways more Kansas schools can prepare children for kindergarten, as well as $1.4 million for IT and data management in the early childhood space. It also includes $1.5 million to expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program that gifts books to children from birth to five years old for free.
• Gives Students the Technical Skills for a Modern Economy: The bill includes $1.5 million to transport students to career and technical education opportunities, $1 million to ensure more students learn computer science, and $40,000 for a pilot program expanding the ways students can receive career and technical education credentials.
While SB 113 includes a $7.5 million increase in funding for special education, it does not include the $72 million Gov. Kelly has called for throughout the legislative session to put Kansas on the path to fully fund special education.
“Republicans and Democrats agree we must put Kansas on track to fully fund special education, something that would impact each and every student. When legislators return in 2024, they must correct their mistake and fulfill my plan to increase investments in special education,” Gov. Kelly noted in the May 18 State of Kansas release. “I also vetoed appropriations in SB 113 that would have changed the school finance formula that determines the amount of funding annually appropriated by the state to public schools. The provision would have risked the state’s compliance with constitutional funding requirements and could have resulted in rural schools having to cut services or close buildings. The legislative debate on SB 113 recognized this bill contains items of appropriations of money, and there is constitutional power to line-item veto such appropriations.”
The work continued Monday, with Gov. Kelly announcing since her administration took office in 2019, Kansas has attracted more than $16 billion in private sector investment. This significant economic development milestone has resulted in more than 57,000 jobs created or retained.
“My administration works every day to grow our economy so that Kansans in communities both large and small can find the kind of jobs they can raise a family on,” Gov. Kelly noted in Monday’s release from the State of Kansas. “This is just one more milestone that shows we are being recognized around the globe for creating a climate where businesses can thrive. Kansas has already generated more than $1.2 billion in private sector investment in 2023. This achievement continues a track record of success: In both 2022 and 2021, Kansas ranked first in the nation in private investment per capita and won the nation’s foremost economic development award, the Governor’s Cup from Site Selection magazine.”
“Kansas has been on a record-breaking surge of economic success the past four years, and we have no intention of slowing down,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland noted in Monday’s release from the State of Kansas. “The Kelly administration’s strategic approach to economic development is working, and we have only just begun to tap into our great state’s potential. The Department of Commerce has recorded 910 economic development successes since January 2019.”
Most recently, Tuesday saw Gov. Kelly send letters to members of the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services Committees and Defense Appropriations Subcommittees urging them to support the aviation industry, create jobs, and encourage economic development in Kansas by supporting the F-35 Lightning II program. She requested the chairmen and ranking members support the president’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for 83 F-35 fighter jets and at least six additional aircraft.
“Enhancing F-35 production is important to Kansas’ future as it generates economic opportunities for our residents and supports American national security,” Gov. Kelly’s letter noted. “The combined benefits of job creation, defense modernization, and our state’s aviation expertise make the F-35 program valuable for Kansas and the United States. The F-35 offers advanced capabilities that strengthen the United States’ global alliances, deter adversaries, and create high-quality manufacturing and engineering jobs. With 37 F-35 supplier locations in Kansas, the program supports nearly 5,000 direct and indirect jobs in Kansas and has an annual economic impact of more than $541 million.”