Kansas lawmakers, governor release $35.7M related to DEI compliance at public universities | News, Sports, Jobs

Kansas lawmakers, governor release .7M related to DEI compliance at public universities | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo taken by: Screenshot of the Kansas Reflector from the Kansas Legislature YouTube channel

Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, and Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, supported releasing $35.7 million in university operating grants withheld under the anti-DEA law and $21.8 million divided equally between public and private higher education institutions.

Topeka — Gov. Laura Kelly and top legislative leaders voted Tuesday to award $35.7 million to public higher education after the Kansas Board of Supervisors certified that campus administrators are complying with a state law prohibiting hiring and admissions decisions from being based on principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.

This year, the Legislature conditioned the distribution of university operating grants on the affirmation that DEI would no longer dictate the terms of employment of faculty and staff or influence student admissions.

To ensure that public institutions complied with the law, it was necessary to adjust personnel procedures and publish information about training or orientation programmes on public websites.

DEI refers to policies established to support people from diverse backgrounds. A DEI framework would consider gender, race, sexual orientation, and other factors related to people with a history of marginalization in higher education.

“So has every single university president confirmed that they have fulfilled their required duties?” asked House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican.

Blake Flanders, president and CEO of the state Board of Regents, said the mandates have been met by the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Wichita State University and Emporia State University. He said neither Pittsburgh State University nor Fort Hays State University had previously ordered DEI training, but both universities planned to eventually post links to relevant materials on their websites when appropriate.

The DEI law would not prevent public universities or colleges from complying with anti-discrimination laws or undermine the academic freedom of faculty or students engaged in DEI research or teaching. Campuses found to be in violation of the law by upholding DEI pledges or oaths could be fined $10,000 for each instance of noncompliance. The provisions have not been applied in state law to private or parochial colleges or universities in Kansas.

The bipartisan State Finance Council also voted to provide $21.8 million in need-based financial aid to students at public and private colleges and universities in Kansas.

There has been controversy in the past when the state board of trustees allocated a higher percentage of money for a comprehensive scholarship program for students at public universities. The legislature ordered the money to be divided equally between public and private institutions in the state. The money was withheld until the state board confirmed it would follow the prescribed methods for distributing the money to students.

Adam Proffitt, state budget director and secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration, also received permission from the State Finance Board to use money from the state’s general fund to pay down $5.5 million in bond debt that otherwise wouldn’t be eliminated for seven years. He said $4.7 million is needed to quickly address the debt.

“We’re effectively investing 87 SGF cents to withdraw 1 SGF dollar,” Proffitt said. “That doesn’t sound like much, but when you do that five million times, that’s a pretty big saving.”

—Tim Carpenter reports for the Kansas Reflector.