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Kansas Gov. Kelly warns against politics in classrooms, renews calls for medical marijuana

Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly in her State of State address on Tuesday night warned the Republican-controlled Legislature that she would oppose “irresponsible tax proposals” and education measures that pit “parents against teachers,” even as the Democratic governor seeks GOP support for her agenda.

Kelly has called for immediately eliminating the state sales tax on food, creating a back-to-school sales tax holiday and providing a tax break for some retirees. Kelly also wants Kansas to fully fund special education after the state has gone more than a decade without meeting mandatory funding levels.

The governor, in the first weeks of her second term, emphasized that she wants to work across the aisle, including the possibility of compromise to legalize medical marijuana in Kansas, one of just three states without any public marijuana or THC program. She also made clear that action must be taken to address diminishing water supplies in western Kansas, saying politicians had “kicked the can down the road” for decades.

But Kelly’s annual State of State address also signaled she is ready to deploy her veto pen as she begins a second term.

Warning that the classroom isn’t a “place for politics,” the governor said she would oppose efforts “designed to turn parents against teachers … to turn communities against their schools … to turn young people away from the teaching profession,” Kelly said.

Republicans, both in Kansas and in states across the country, have pursued legislation to prohibit critical race theory – a college-level academic concept that examines the role of institutions in perpetuating racism – and “divisive concepts” in K-12 classrooms. A Missouri bill, for example, would ban teaching any form of form of “race or sex scapegoating.”

 

“I will resist politicians who want to score political points at the expense of our students and our families. Our students should not be used as political pawns. Not ever,” Kelly said.

GOP legislators have also called for bans on transgender athletes competing in girls’ sports, a proposal Kelly has twice vetoed. Republicans have also promised to propose a “parents’ bill of rights” that aims to give parents more control over curriculum but have yet to release it.

A Florida version of the “parents’ bill of rights” became known as the “don’t say gay bill” for prohibiting classroom instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation. Previous versions of the legislation in Kansas have not been as wide reaching.

“We want high quality classical education that focuses on academic excellence, preparing our kids for a successful future, not the sexualized woke agenda we see permeating the system today,” Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said in a response to the speech pre-recorded two weeks ago.

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