ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Classes recently started up again for the 2023-24 school and in recognition of that, it was recently announced Kansas will be fully funding schools for the fifth year in a row.
Gov. Laura Kelly joined Blue Valley School District leaders, teachers, and students in Overland Park Wednesday to sign House Substitute for Senate Bill 113. This legislation fully funds K-12 education for the fifth consecutive year after nearly a decade of schools being chronically underfunded under the previous administration.
“This year, we fully funded public schools for the fifth year in a row and made historic investments in our K-12 system,” Gov. Kelly noted in a release from the State of Kansas. “Now, for five years running, schools have been much better positioned to offer after-school activities, to provide critical intervention services to students who need additional support, and to pay teachers much closer to what they deserve. But our work isn’t done. When the legislators return in 2024, we must work together to put Kansas on the path to fully fund special education.”
In May, Governor Kelly also line-item vetoed aspects of SB 113 to protect funding for rural schools facing declining enrollment. While the bill includes a $7.5 million increase in funding for special education, it does not include the $72 million Gov. Kelly called for throughout the legislative session.
“We appreciate Governor Kelly’s strong commitment to public education and her efforts to fully fund public education as the Kansas Constitution requires,” Patty Logan, chair of parent group Stand Up Blue Valley: Families for Our Schools, noted in the State of Kansas release. “We want to remind Blue Valley voters that the Kansas legislature’s failure to fully fund excess special education costs causes Blue Valley Schools to redirect millions of dollars from critical general education needs to special education – negatively impacting ALL students in our district. We call on the legislature to do the right thing and vote to fully fund excess special education costs, especially legislators from Blue Valley who claim to support our schools.”
Keeping schools funded, along with expanding childcare, have been a priority for the Kelly Administration every year of her term.
“The first thing I did when I was re-inaugurated was sign an executive order creating the Early Childhood Transition Taskforce, so we're right now looking at all the early childhood-related activities we have going on all throughout Kansas and looking for ways to streamline all of that and elevate those issues so we end up with the best early childhood education system in the country, and I expect that will mean elevating that to a Cabinet-level position soon so there will be an agency focused exclusively on early childhood education and care,” Gov. Kelly noted in an Aug. 15 L&T story. “There are some things we're getting done with that, and there are conversations going on regarding that – in fact, I was just in Great Bend a few weeks ago helping with the groundbreaking of a new childhood development center there, and I know that's going to be a great project, among many others going on throughout the state. I'd also like to put in a plug for fully funding special education programs, since students will be going back to school soon. We have been fully funding our general K-12 schools, but we're still lagging on funding for special education programs, and that will be another area I will target come January.”
In June, Gov. Kelly and multiple other U.S. governors sent a letter calling on Congress to protect and increase federal investment in child care in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget.
“Here in Kansas, we are working to make it possible for every Kansas family to find an affordable option for child care, but we can’t do it alone,” Gov. Kelly noted in the State of Kansas release. “That’s why I’ve joined my fellow governors in urging Congress to make critical investments to support families and grow our workforce. Congress supplied one-time funding to aid child care during the pandemic, but the need for child care funding remains as important as ever. Nationally, there are roughly 90,000 fewer people in the child care industry today, a 9.7 percent decrease from February 2020, and 60 percent of rural Americans live in a ‘child care desert,’ which are areas with an insufficient supply of licensed child care. In Kansas, a lack of child care options hurts economic and workforce development, as 6 percent of Kansans who don’t work say it is because they cannot find affordable child care. According to a recent report, the average cost for a toddler in center-based child care in Kansas costs the median two-parent household 8 percent of its income and the median one-parent household 26 percent of its income. We urge bipartisan action to make this essential, recurring investment in our children, our economy, and the future of our country.”