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Legislative Leaders Decide Not to Challenge Kelly’s Line-Item Veto in School Bill




TOPEKA, Kan. – School districts apparently have clearance to plan fiscal year 2024 budgets after legislative leaders said they will not challenge Gov. Laura Kelly’s line-item veto of a provision in the new K-12 education funding law.

Last week, Kelly signed into law SB 113, which provides funding for schools. In signing the bill, she also applied a line-item veto to a provision that would have hurt school districts with declining enrollment, mostly in rural areas.

Immediately after Kelly’s action, Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, asked Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach to weigh in on whether the governor had the legal authority to make the line-item veto.

On Thursday, however, Masterson and Hawkins told media organizations that they have decided not to try to challenge Kelly over the action. Kobach had not responded to media inquiries by noon Friday.

The decision should settle the dispute giving school districts breathing room to plan their budgets for the next school year.

Under current law, districts can use one of the preceding two years’ enrollment to calculate state finance aid. Under SB 113, education committee chairs changed that to current enrollment or one previous year. This change was made without input from school leaders, KASB or members of the public, and would have harmed scores of rural districts. Kelly vetoed that change, which essentially returns the method of calculating enrollment to current law.

In her veto message, Kelly said, “This provision pulls the rug out from underneath rural districts at the 11th hour. If this provision were enacted, it would bring dangerous and devastating consequences for our rural districts.” She also noted the current method of determining enrollment was approved by the Kansas Supreme Court in the Gannon legal settlement and any change in the formula would raise questions about the state’s compliance in the case.

Kelly said proposed policy changes to K-12 education should be debated openly and in separate bills. For the past several years legislative leaders have bundled required school funding into a bill with unpopular policy provisions, such as taxpayer-paid vouchers to unregulated schools.