Kansas GOP leaders back down on threat to sue Democratic governor over education funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the Republican-controlled Kansas legislature have backed off their threat to sue the state’s Democratic governor over her vetoing parts of a Republican education funding law, saying on Thursday they still doubt the legality of her actions , but are now questioning whether a judicial challenge would be worthwhile.
Governor Laura Kelly nixed article in a $6 billion effort providing the majority of funding for K-12 public schools for the 2023-24 school year. The vetoes changed the way government funds are allocated to protect rural schools. However, the move benefited a majority of the state’s 286 local counties, removing funds from just 25 of them, according to data from the state Department of Education.
Kelly also didn’t touch on the only school choice initiative the divided Republicans managed to pass this year, expanding an existing private school scholarship program of up to $8,000 a year for low-income public school students. While public education groups were staunchly opposed, some GOP conservatives had hoped to pass such a rule comprehensive plan use government education funds to help parents fund private or home tuition, e.g. B Iowa,South Carolina And Utah enacted.
Republican leaders claim that Kelly has exceeded the powers granted to governors under the Kansas Constitution to veto individual spending items in draft budgets. The Education Funding Bill mixed spending with politics, and Kelly deleted six pages of text and also made a technical adjustment at the end of the bill.
Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican from the Wichita-area, told reporters Thursday at the Statehouse that GOP leaders initially feared she would seek additional portions of the bill.
“I don’t know if it’s worth fighting for now,” Masterson said. “I don’t think we’re going to do anything with that.”
When Kelly announced her veto last week, Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, called on Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach to review them and indicated they were prepared for a lawsuit.
Kelly’s actions opposed a Republican Party-backed change for local school districts with declining student enrollments — more than half of them. The state allocates its dollars on a per-student formula, so funds fall as enrollment falls, but the state gradually continues the decline over several years.
The GOP switch would have given counties less time to adjust to a loss of funding, and leading Republicans claim the move helped counties grow. But Hawkins said in a statement that the issue “can probably be more efficiently resolved” than suing Kelly.
The governor told reporters Thursday after an event at the Statehouse that she believed the six sides she vetoed “clearly” constituted a budget item.
She said she wasn’t sure she could implement other parts of the bill, “and I didn’t want to try it.”
Kelly’s vetoes benefited more than 150 counties, earning them more federal funding than they otherwise would have received, according to the state Department of Education. More than 100 others saw no difference.
Kansas has increased aid to public schools over the past decade, with an increase of about 3% for 2023-24. Even though much of the state has fewer students, only 10 counties will receive fewer grants overall than they did in 2022-23. All of them have less than 500 students and four have less than 100.
Without Kelly’s veto, 29 counties would have received less money overall than they did in 2022–23.
“If they continue to have really bad policies in the draft budgets, I’ll probably continue to line (veto) items,” the governor said.
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