Gov. Kelly signs budget that includes increased school funding; line-item vetoes several education-related programs

Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday signed into law the state budget, which includes a $90 million increase for K-12 to address the school finance case before the Kansas Supreme Court, and made several education-related line-item vetoes.

“There is a lot to celebrate in this state budget,” Kelly said. “We can accomplish so much good for the people of Kansas when reckless tax policy does not leave our state embroiled in a perpetual budget crisis. I appreciate the bipartisan work of lawmakers to pass a budget that takes meaningful strides to rebuild Kansas – including investments in public education, public safety, infrastructure, and the foster care system – all without raising taxes.”

The $90 million increase for schools is meant to address the state Supreme Court’s ruling that an inflation adjustment was needed on top of earlier increases to make school funding constitutionally adequate. Plaintiff school districts say the increase is about $270 million short and the dispute now rests with the court, which is expected to issue a decision at any time between now and June 30.

Kelly applied a line-item veto to an additional $51 million transfer from the state general fund for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. Legislators approved the additional payment after discovering that a miscalculation to the school portion of KPERS made the funding available. But Kelly said given the large number of unmet needs facing state government, it wasn’t prudent to go beyond regularly scheduled payments.

Kelly also made three line-item vetoes to the Kansas Department of Education funding. They included $1.2 million that goes to districts for evidence-based or research-based reading programs; $261,000 for Teach for America and $80,000 for Technical Education certification tests.

Kelly’s original budget proposal deleted state general funding for a program called Kansas Reading Success and questions have arisen about the effectiveness of the Teach for America program.

In a statement, Kelly explained her line-item vetoes to KSDE, by saying, “Increasing funding to Kansas public schools was my top budget priority and proudest accomplishment as governor in 2019. However, in a continued effort to establish fair expectations of accountability and efficiency throughout state government, I felt it inappropriate to earmark education funds through the Kansas Department of Education. I encourage local districts to use their new State Foundation Aid to participate in these programs as they deem appropriate.”

The Legislature returns for one more day on May 29 and some Republican leaders have talked about trying to overturn some of Kelly’s vetoes, specifically her earlier veto of a $245 million tax cut bill. Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, also criticized Kelly for vetoing the KPERS payment and funding for Kansas Reading Success.

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