Stephen Koranda

Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Kansas Public Radio.

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Education
8:01 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Efficiency Group Considering Kansas School Spending

A commission will be working over the coming months to look for possible ways Kansas schools could more efficiently use tax dollars.

The group is made up of former lawmakers, education officials and members of advocacy groups like the Kansas Policy Institute. Those factions don't always see eye-to-eye on education issues.

The group elected former advertising executive and Wichita Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sam Williams to head the commission. He says he'll be working to get everyone on the same page.

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Education
3:44 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Kansas School Efficiency Group Convenes For First Time

A Kansas school efficiency commission created by the Legislature met for the first time Friday. It was formed to find ways for schools to more efficiently use taxpayer money while improving the quality of education.

The group chose retired advertising executive and former Wichita Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sam Williams to head the commission.

"I think my opportunity is to help us get to the position where the entire state of Kansas can be comfortable with the recommendations we're going to make," says Williams.

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Primary Election 2014
8:00 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Rick Santorum In Kansas To Stump For Brownback

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum stopped in Kansas to campaign for Gov. Sam Brownback Monday in Olathe, Kan., where Santorum called Brownback a "warrior" for conservative principles. 

Santorum and Brownback served in the U.S. Senate together. Santorum says Brownback takes on the big issues, and he isn't surprised Brownback has ruffled some feathers with his tax-cutting, small-government policies. Santorum said Kansas could be a leader for other states.

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Primary Election 2014
8:18 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Tuesday Is Last Day To Register To Vote In Kansas Primaries

Tuesday is the final day for Kansans to register to vote or update their address before the Kansas primary election on August 5. There's also still time to provide missing citizenship documents that are keeping voter registrations from being processed.

Anyone who's registering to vote for the first time in Kansas needs to provide a document proving that they're a U.S. citizen. 

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Weather
7:51 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Wet June Helps Ease Drought Conditions In Kansas

Last month was the fifth wettest June on record, and that has helped ease drought conditions across Kansas.

Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says June was a critical month, because in parts of Kansas it's normally the wettest month. A lack of June rain would have meant Kansas missed a good chance to reduce the drought.

July is also a wet month in some areas, and Knapp says possible cooler weather this month could help further reduce the drought.

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Government
8:17 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Kansas Statehouse Visitors Can Now Carry Hidden Firearms

Visitors with a concealed carry permit can now bring handguns into the Kansas Statehouse.

The change took effect this week, and Statehouse security officers have a process in place to determine who's carrying in the Capitol. Visitors with a firearm will need to provide their concealed carry permit and a photo ID.

Kansas Capitol Police Officer Stephen Crumpler says staff will screen the person for other weapons and use a system to double-check that the concealed carry permit is valid.

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Education
6:47 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Kansas Board Of Education OKs Teaching License Changes

The Kansas State Board of Education has approved changes that will allow people with career experience – but no education degree — to teach in public schools. The changes will allow people with real-world experience to teach subjects including math, science and technical education.

The new regulations were prompted by a bill passed earlier this year by the Kansas Legislature, although the Board of Ed had already been considering some new rules. The changes easily passed on a 9-1 vote.

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Government
8:42 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Schodorf Unveils Plan To Change Voter Registration In Kansas

A Democratic candidate for Kansas secretary of state has unveiled her proposal to revamp some voter registration rules. Kansas law requires proof of citizenship documents for people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas, and that requirement has put around 19,000 voter registrations on hold.

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Education
8:11 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Kansas Universities, Colleges Sign Transfer Agreement

A new agreement signed by universities and community colleges in Kansas can help students earn associate degrees.

The program is aimed at helping students who transfer from a community college to a university, and puts in place a "reverse transfer" policy.

Students who can be helped by this include those who transfer to a university before finishing their associate degree at a community college. After the student earns the required credits for an associate degree at a university, the community college the student previously attended will automatically issue the degree.

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Elections
10:18 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Debate About Kansas Finances Previews Fall Election

A routine financial meeting last week at the Kansas Statehouse turned into a heated exchange between Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and some Democratic lawmakers. The two sides sparred over the state's financial policies, and the meeting previewed many of the arguments that are likely to be repeated on the campaign trail this fall.

The state of Kansas borrows money to help manage cash flow during the year, but the annual meeting soon turned to a debate over fiscal policy.

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Kansas Statehouse
3:30 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Concealed Firearms To Be Allowed In Kansas Capitol

Kansas lawmakers decided not to ban concealed firearms in the capital building.
Credit Wikimedia Commons - CC

Visitors who have a concealed weapons permit will be allowed to bring guns into the Kansas Statehouse starting in July.

A state law grants the Legislative Coordinating Council the authority to bar concealed firearms in the Capitol. But at a meeting Thursday, those legislators chose not to discuss any regulations. That means concealed guns will be allowed in the Capitol next month.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, says this puts the Statehouse on a par with many other facilities.

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Higher Education
5:17 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Kansas Board Of Regents Approves Tuition Increase

College students in Kansas will see their tuition bills increase next year after the Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to raise rates. 

The overall tuition and fee increases for undergraduate resident students in Kansas range from 2.5 percent at Fort Hays State University to more than 5 percent at Kansas State. Regents Chairman Fred Logan says this is the lowest increase in 13 years.

"It's always a tough job balancing access and excellence and I think we've done a pretty nice job of that here," says Logan.

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Education
3:16 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Kansas Regents To Vote On Tuition Increases

The Kansas Board of Regents will consider proposed tuition increases at a meeting this week. Breeze Richardson with the board, says this will be the final step in the process. Universities have spent the last few months developing and submitting their proposals.

"Those proposals were brought forth at last months meeting, and then the final proposals will be presented [Wedesnday] and voted upon" Richardson said.

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Agriculture
4:20 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Recent Heavy Rains Won't Eliminate Drought In Kansas

This map shows dry conditions covering most of the state of Kansas.
Credit Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

Despite recent heavy rains across the state of Kansas, officials say the precipitation is likely not enough to end the drought.

Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says Kansas has seen almost double what would be a normal amount of rain for the first part of June. But she says the rains won’t be enough to bring conditions back to normal, as the first five months of the year were very dry.

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Education
8:01 am
Tue June 10, 2014

Kansas Teachers Union Promises Lawsuit

The largest teachers union in Kansas is promising a legal challenge to part of a controversial education funding law. The legislation includes additional school funding in response to a court ruling, but lawmakers also added policy changes that angered many teachers.

The bill makes it easier to fire teachers in Kansas, by eliminating the guarantee of a due process hearing before a teacher is removed, if the teacher requests it. The KNEA says the provision was added to the bill in an improper manner.

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Community
3:20 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Topeka Event Marks Brown v. Board Ruling

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback visits with a student in a new classroom at the former Monroe Elementary School in Topeka. The classroom is being dedicated at the historic site as part of the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Credit Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and others remembered the Brown v. Board of Education ruling Friday in Topeka.

The event comes on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ordered an end to segregation in public schools.

The governor spoke at the former Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, which is now a national historic site dedicated to the ruling.

Brownback says it’s important to remember the controversy surrounding the Brown v. Board ruling and the struggles of the civil rights movement.

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Primary Election 2014
10:04 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Brownback Files For Second Term As Kansas Governor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks Thursday at the official launch of his campaign for a second term during an event at the Statehouse in Topeka.
Credit Stephen Koranda / KPR

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer officially have started their campaign for a second term.

The two were joined Thursday at a kickoff event in Topeka by their campaign co-chairs, former Sen. Bob Dole and Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of Dwight Eisenhower.

During the event, Brownback touted his economic policies and tax cuts he helped pass. He credits them with promoting job growth and helping to build a significant financial cushion in the state budget.

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Education
7:53 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Kansas Board Of Education To Study Innovative Districts Plan

The Kansas State Board of Education has decided to continue studying a plan to exempt two school districts from many state regulations. The idea is that exempting schools from regulations may give them more flexibility and lead to better student outcomes.

The McPherson and Concordia districts are the first two seeking approval to become so-called "innovative districts." The board decided to form a study committee to meet with officials from the districts and look into some issues raised by board members.

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Politics
7:43 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Kansas Board Rejects Challenge To Roberts Candidacy

A state panel has rejected an effort to block Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts from running for re-election.

The State Objections Board ruled 3-0 against a group of Kansans arguing that Roberts doesn't really live in the state. The decision sets the stage for Roberts to face challenger Milton Wolf in the August Republican primary.

Chuck Henderson, a Milton Wolf supporter from Manhattan, filed one of the objections. He believes Roberts shouldn't be eligible to run again because he actually lives in a home in Virginia.

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Politics
7:59 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Kansas Board To Rule On Roberts Challenge

A state panel will meet Monday to decide if Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is eligible to appear on the primary election ballot.

Four Kansans have filed claims challenging his candidacy by saying he may not meet the residency requirement. 

The State Objections Board, made up of the Kansas secretary of state, lieutenant governor and state attorney general, makes decisions in these situations. All three of them have endorsed Roberts.

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Education
7:44 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Moody's Lowers Bond Rating For KU, Emporia State

The credit rating agency Moody's has downgraded its bond rating for the University of Kansas. The rating fell one grade to AA2. The company cited what it calls "thin operating cash flow" and falling enrollment as the state faces budget challenges in the coming years.

KU's Joe Monaco says despite the downgrade, the rating is still the third-highest an institution can receive.

“An Aa2 rating is still a very strong rating that enables us to continue financing the projects and the operations we need to serve students and the state of Kansas,” Monaco says.

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Kansas Statehouse
8:24 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Brownback Signs Bill Tweaking Workers Compensation

Brownback speaks during the ceremonial signing of the workers compensation bill.
Credit Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed into law a bill allowing more workers compensation claims for firefighters and law enforcement officers.

Previously, emergency responders had not been able to collect workers compensation for heart attacks or strokes.

More than 40 years ago, Kansas rewrote workers compensation laws. Part of that created a rule that said a worker couldn't collect workers comp for heart attacks or strokes related to their job unless it was caused by an unusually high level of exertion that isn't normally required for the job.

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Education
7:47 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Long-Term Effects Of Kansas Tenure Repeal Uncertain

Major changes to teacher employment laws in Kansas will soon be taking effect, eliminating from state law what many people know as “tenure.”

That means administrators will be able to be fire teachers more easily, and it could be several years before we know the full effects of the changes. Under the old rules, Kansas teachers who had been with a district fewer than three years were on probationary status, and could be let go without a reason.

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Kansas Statehouse
3:17 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Kansas Lawmakers Consider Tossing Health Club Tax Break

A legislative conference committee is working to reconcile differing tax bills that passed the Kansas House and Senate. In the first round of negotiations Wednesday, House leaders suggested eliminating a proposed tax break for health clubs.

The measure would exempt health clubs from property taxes because some club owners say they face unfair competition from YMCAs, which are tax exempt nonprofit organizations.

Rep. Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican, is concerned that giving health clubs a tax break could lead to other businesses asking for a similar tax cut.

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Health
4:16 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

KanCare Contractors Lost Money In First Year

The three private companies contracted to manage Medicaid services through KanCare lost money in the program's first year, according to a report released this week.

The total losses between the companies come to more than $100 million.

Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, is concerned that could lead to service reductions or the companies pulling out of the program altogether.

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Kansas Statehouse
7:39 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Kansas Lawmakers To Resume Legislative Session

Kansas lawmakers will resume the 2014 legislative session this week after a nearly month-long break, when they return Wednesday.

Lawmakers don't need to pass a full budget this year, because they passed a two-year budget last session. But they do need to finish at least a spending plan for the Kansas Department of Corrections. That section of the state budget was vetoed by the governor because of cuts in corrections spending.

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Politics
7:45 am
Wed April 23, 2014

Bob Dole Speaks On KU Campus During Kansas Visit

Former Republican Kansas Senator Bob Dole is in the midst of a tour through eastern Kansas to meet with friends and supporters.

Dole will wrap up the three-day trek Wednesday in Atchison and Leavenworth.

On Tuesday, the 90-year-old visited the University of Kansas campus and spoke at a facility named after him — the Dole Institute. He didn't shy away from serious topics.

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Kansas Statehouse
6:15 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Kansas Lawmakers Cut Tenure For Teachers

Kansas lawmakers have given final approval to a plan that would increase aid to poor school districts and eliminate tenure for public school teachers.

The provision to make it easier to fire teachers was included in an education funding bill designed to comply with a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The bill passed both the House and Senate.

Some lawmakers supporting the measure say schools need to be run more like private sector businesses, where people can be hired and fired more easily. Representative Allan Rothlisberg is a Grandview Plaza Republican.

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Kansas Statehouse
6:30 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Kansas House Passes Education Bill

The Kansas House has passed an education spending bill on a bipartisan 91-31 vote. The measure includes around $100 million in additional education funding. The bill would create an education study committee and would change teacher certification rules.

"This is a very good combination of strong policy that will help our schools use money efficiently or give us ideas. And it's a strong policy in meeting the court's test that they want us to equalize our funding here in the state," says Rep. Marvin Kleeb, a Republican from Overland Park.

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Kansas Statehouse
8:24 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Kansas Senate Advances Education Funding Bill

The Kansas Senate has advanced a plan to respond to a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding.

The court said lawmakers created inequalities between school districts by cutting certain types of education funds. The bill would shift money into funds aimed at reducing those disparities. Dollars would be moved from school transportation as well as other areas of the budget.

Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said they are prioritizing spending.

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