TOPEKA – Gov. Laura Kelly’s Racial Equity and Justice Task Force Final Report Calls for the Repeal of State Laws Disproportionately Preventing Families of Color from Getting All Food Stamps and temporary cash assistance under federally funded programs.
Members of the task force also recommended that the state expand participation in Medicaid coverage, expand the availability of telehealth services, and improve training of law enforcement officers in response. in the event of a mental and behavioral crisis. The task force urged state lawmakers to eliminate the state’s 6.5% sales tax on food, while ensuring that some contraceptive care remains both accessible and affordable.
In the area of education, the group proposed that incentives be offered to teachers and school staff to master second languages. Programs should be developed to encourage the hiring of educators who live and work in the neighborhoods where they work, according to the report.
The task force concluded that it would be better to eliminate zero tolerance policies in the state’s juvenile justice system. The goal should be to build on alternatives to school suspensions for disciplinary offenses, according to the report, by turning to alternative schools, behavioral interventions, family case managers and restorative justice programs.
On housing, the task force suggested exploring options to help homeowners pay for utilities and property taxes. In addition, the group suggested that state law should be broadened to include protection against discrimination on the basis of income. Another idea was to improve access to a lawyer among those involved in deportation cases.
The task force called on lawmakers to consider limits on payday lending practices in Kansas and increase the state’s minimum wage.
Kelly said the report offered a way to improve racial equity in Kansas’ health care, education and economic structure. A copy of the commission’s final report can be found here.
“I would like to thank the commission for developing another set of pragmatic and well-documented recommendations to improve racial equity and justice in our state, ”she said. “My administration remains committed to working together to address inequalities and improve the health and well-being of every community in Kansas. “
She established the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice by issuing an executive order in June 2020. The panel was chaired by Tiffany Anderson, Superintendent of Topeka Public Schools, and Shannon Portillo, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of Kansas. Other members of the working group represented the fields of public health, government, education, law enforcement, academia and the courts.
“By speaking with local, state and national experts, the commission was able to develop a vision and a path to move forward and improve equity efforts statewide,” Anderson said. “We are all excited to see how different parts of the state will implement these ideas to improve Kansas communities for all residents.”
In December 2020, the task force released a preliminary outline of more than 60 recommendations for consideration by government officials. An interim analysis of challenges related to justice and equity was published in July. The final report contained 124 recommendations, some of which overlapped in the draft document.