Gov. Laura Kelly addresses members of her education council during a meeting Friday at the Statehouse in Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly told members of education advisory group Friday that the state’s healthy financial situation made this year’s budget process “particularly fun.”
Faced with a projected $2.9 billion surplus, the governor was able to include nearly all of the recommendations made by educators in the proposed budget she delivered to the Legislature on Wednesday. Her suggested investments in K-12 schools include more money for student aid, professional development, student mental health services, and an inflation adjustment for total spending.
“We said we would fully fund our public education, and we continue to fulfill that promise,” Kelly said.
The Governor’s Council on Education includes nearly 48 business leaders and education officials from across the state. Members of the council met in the Statehouse with banners that recalled the governor’s inauguration in 2019, displaying the words “equality,” “education,” “opportunity” and “innovation.”
“We do have the pillars that we started with, that were based on the governor’s inauguration,” said Fred Dierksen, superintendent for Dodge City schools. “We added ‘innovation’ because of the importance of technology in education today, and where we’re going with that in all facets of the business. And so I just think those are constant reminders that we can never overlook.”
The council delivered a report with recommendations to invest in child care, computer science and information technology talent, technology and equipment upgrades, and work-based learning. The council also recommends the formation of a commission of health care policymakers, regulators and criminal justice experts to review and recommend career pathways.
Kelly said she plans to keep a copy of the report on her desk during the legislative session as a reference.
“You have made it clear what the issues are, and that will make it much easier,” Kelly said.
Cynthia Lane, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, and Dierksen co-chaired the council, which focused on child care, early learning, talent pipeline and work-based learning in meetings throughout 2021.
Lane said the difficult reality that Kansas is not a place of opportunity has been driving the council’s work.
“Many of us are lifelong Kansans, many of us have chosen to live in Kansas, and we want to make sure that we have quality opportunities for all,” Lane said.
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