Kelly vetoes Legislature’s last-day education bill

Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday vetoed a package of education measures that included a provision that would have required an annual report card on educational outcome data for students who are in the foster care system.

Kelly said she supported many parts of HB 2510, but vetoed it because it would have cost millions of dollars in new expenditures at a time when the state faces a drastic revenue shortfall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cannot in good conscience sign a bill establishing a new discretionary spending program that is unrelated to Kansas COVID-19 response efforts when such severe financial strain looms in the months ahead,” Kelly wrote in her veto message. “I have made Kansas children in foster care one of the top priorities of my administration. At this time of fiscal crisis we must focus on preserving the foster care program and services already in place,” Kelly said.

Supporters of the bill said it was necessary to track this data to improve outcomes for foster care students. State Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, who pushed the bill, told the Kansas City Star she plans to try to get approval for whatever parts of the legislation she can — especially the academic report card.

“I am not shaking loose on this, and we’re going to see what we can do,” Baumgardner, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, told the Star.

Baumgardner said the committee may introduce two bills in order to get some legislation to help foster children signed into law.

“It has such bipartisan support, why would a governor veto legislation that would be so positive for the state?” Baumgardner said.

The foster care portion of the bill would have required the Kansas State Department of Education and Kansas Department for Children and Families to prepare an annual academic report card on foster care students.

The foster student report would have included information on the graduation rate, promotion rate, suspensions, state test scores, and other data regarding foster students..

The bill was approved 110-3 in the House and 36-3 in the Senate last month on the official last day of the 2020 legislative session. It included numerous provisions that were packed together in a conference committee report.

On dual enrollment, it would have authorized, school districts to pay all or a portion of tuition, fees, books, materials, and equipment for any high school student who is concurrently or dually enrolled at a postsecondary educational institution. School districts would also have been authorized to provide transportation for concurrently or dually enrolled students. The bill required school districts to grant high school credit to concurrently or dually enrolled students who satisfactorily complete course work at a postsecondary institution. The bill would have prohibited school districts from paying for technical education courses that are part of the Excel in Career Technical Education program (also known as SB 155 courses) administered by the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR). 

The legislation also would have created the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act (KPSA), which would have provided scholarships for students to attend a community or technical college, the Washburn Institute of Technology, or any two-year associate degree program or technical certificate program offered by a private postsecondary educational institution that has its primary location in Kansas. And it would have extended free ACT exams and ACT WorkKeys assessments to students in accredited private schools.

Legislators return Wednesday for a special session focusing on emergency issues related to the pandemic, but other subjects may be considered.

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