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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

“The sad reality is her party,” Masterson said, referring to Kelly, “remains beholden to the public union leadership, which fears and resists parents having any form of school choice, just wanting a blank check to their system.”

Kelly’s major education priority this year centers on significantly increasing the amount of aid the state provides to schools to educate children with special needs. As Kansas enjoys a historic, nearly $2 billion budget surplus, Kelly has proposed an additional $72 million each year for special education to bring the state into compliance in five years.

The amount of funding holds the potential to affect the kind of services and instruction upwards of 90,000 Kansas students receive. Nearly one in five students in the state receive special education services, which includes students with both developmental and physical disabilities, as well as those enrolled in gifted programs, according to the Kansas Association of School Boards.

“The Special Education funding gap doesn’t just impact students with special needs,” Kelly said. “It impacts every student, because schools end up diverting funds away from other areas to provide these services.”

Kelly introduced Danny Robeson, a fifth grade student in the Shawnee Mission School District, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and impaired vision.

Kelly said Danny’s mother, Laura, frequently volunteers at his school and has experienced the consequences of not enough funding, including times when she has had to keep him home from school because there aren’t enough staff for him to learn safely.

 

Some Republicans are either resistant to approving the additional special education dollars, or want to attach major strings attached.

“We are going to spend a lot of time looking at alternatives to address the issues that already exist in statute,” said Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican. “The statute’s got flaws. So rather than just add money to a flawed statute let’s fix the statute and then address the funding and make sure it’s fair for everyone.”

The governor was originally scheduled to speak to a joint session of the Legislature two days after her second inauguration, but it was postponed after she tested positive for COVID-19.

Kelly’s office then said she did not in fact have the virus but had a false positive. Additional tests came back negative, the governor’s office said. Tuesday was Kelly’s 73rd birthday, and after lawmakers sang “Happy Birthday,” she joked that the delay “was so I would hear you sing happy birthday to me.”

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