Kansas governor seeks to regain control of education debate

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (AP) – Kansas’ Democratic governor is trying to regain control of the education debate in a tough re-election bid, after Republicans attacked transgender athletes and the content of classroom teaching. Renewed focus on increases in public school spending during tenure,

Gov. Laura Kelly sought Wednesday to paint Republican challenger Derek Schmidt, the state’s three-term attorney general, as a threat to adequate funding for public schools in the second and final debate. Kelly has dubbed himself the “Education Governor” for his support for greater education spending.

But Schmidt emphasized what he called parental rights, or making it easier for parents to challenge classroom material and seek to remove books they deem objectionable from the library, a key issue. Schmidt’s approach is reminiscent of a strategy that helped Republican Glenn Yankin win over suburban parents and win the typically blue Virginia gubernatorial race in 2021. He also blasted the incumbent, saying Kelly allowed students to be “locked out of school” for months during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly, a national Republican target, argues that Kansas has increased spending on K-12 schools enough to satisfy multiple rulings by the state Supreme Court in a 2010 lawsuit against the state. Schmidt has said as governor he will ensure the state consistently spends enough money, but as attorney general he has defended past Republican school funding laws that courts have declared insufficient under the Kansas constitution.

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