Gov. Laura Kelly

Gov. Laura Kelly speaks with middle and high school students during Constitution Day on Sept. 17. “I want to thank all of you students for being here today,” Kelly said. “You are the future of our country and our state.”

Gov. Laura Kelly said recently that she stands by the rights of undocumented immigrants to have an education in Kansas.

“I have long been a supporter, even before I got into the state senate, of the ability of the children of undocumented immigrants to attend our state university system at instate rates,” Kelly said. “I think it’s an important thing (to have) an educated workforce, educated citizenry (that) strengthens a state or nation. I will do everything I can to ensure that those opportunities are available.”

Kelly made the remarks during an interview with The Bulletin Sept. 17 after her address at Emporia State for Constitution Day. In addition to answering questions about undocumented students, Kelly also answered questions about the importance of the Constitution, community involvement, mass shootings and university faculty and staff salary increases.

On ESU’s campus, providing education to undocumented students is an especially relevant issue. Kappa Delta Chi, a multicultural sorority, currently funds a scholarship for DREAMers to help them pay for their education. The scholarship, “My Dream, My Future” was created last year to help minor immigrants who have been granted residency status, said Mayra Murillo, chapter vice president, standards officer and senior sociology major.

Kelly said she believes that the best way to create change is to get involved and start hard conversations.

“I think the best thing (students) can do is get involved in community conversations…and make their voices heard,” Kelly said. “I think we saw after Parkland, that those students really rallied around and were extraordinarily vocal and I think they made a tremendous difference. I think students here in Kansas have the same opportunity to voice their concerns and then to put pressure on elected officials who have the ability to make a difference.”

Regardless of the situation, Kelly said she believes it’s important for students to get involved in their local communities.

“It really is not only their right, but their responsibility to be involved,” Kelly said. “Whether it’s through serving on boards and commissions, or volunteering in their community (getting involved is important), but maybe most importantly, is exercising their right to vote.”

State employees received a 2.5% increase after Kelly’s budget was announced in January. At ESU, it was implemented not across the board, but instead through a partially merit-based system. Faculty and staff employed for at least the last two years are eligible for a 1.68% pay raise if they have satisfactory evaluations and have completed diversity training. An additional 0.82% is available, based on merit. The increases will be effective Oct. 6.

“It works a little bit differently with university systems than it does with other state employment,” Kelly said. “In the executive agency branch, which I oversee, the 2.5% was to be across the board. But, the universities are funded differently, and it’s really their prerogative to decide how they want to disperse those funds.”

If Kelly could go back in time, she said she would’ve gotten more involved as an undergraduate student.

“This is gonna sound really corny, but I would’ve studied harder and taken it more seriously,” Kelly said. “I had a really good opportunity in undergraduate school to learn and to experience a host of things. I took advantage of some, (but) I wish I had taken advantage of more because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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