Shawnee Mission School District

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A special session focused on solving Kansas' nettlesome school funding problem begins Thursday. At stake: school itself. The Kansas Supreme Court has threatened a statewide shutdown of schools if lawmakers don't make funding more equitable before June 30.

It's not an overstatement, then, to say most Kansans will be impacted by what happens in Topeka over the next few days. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Johnson County superintendents and local chambers of commerce are asking for a return to Kansas's old school funding formula and for a provision that would “hold all districts harmless.”

The Kansas Supreme Court has given lawmakers until June 30 to come up with an equitable funding formula or risk closure of the state’s schools. As it stands, Blue Valley, De Soto, Gardner-Edgerton, Olathe and Shawnee Mission will lose money under state lawmakers’ plan to equalize funding.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

While most school districts in Kansas prepare for a possible shutdown at the end of the month, educators are looking for some guidance from the state Department of Education (KSDE).       

Everyone is waiting to see whether there will be a special session of the Kansas Legislature to try and fix the inequity between rich and poor districts.

If it’s not fixed by the end of the month, the state Supreme Court has said it will prohibit districts from spending or raising money.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

While many school districts in Kansas are preparing plans for a possible shutdown by the state Supreme Court, the Shawnee Mission School District in Johnson County, Kansas, says it will be open on July 1.

Superintendent Jim Hinson says he’s making no contingency plans in case the high court says schools must cease operating.

"We will be open on July 1 and we will start on time in August," says Hinson.

Kansas' budget woes have resulted in public schools across the state reducing costs and arts education is taking the hit. One Shawnee Mission teacher has had enough of shrinking support for the arts in his district.

Guests:

  • Jonathan Lane is Orchestra Director at Shawnee Mission East High School.
  • Narric Rome is vice-president of Government Affairs and Arts Education for Americans for the Arts.
Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Shawnee Mission school board keeps hearing the same message: prepare yourselves for a possible cut in state aid in the next three months.

By Friday,  we’re going to know how much Kansas collected in taxes in March, and all predictions are that it will be another month of missing projections.

Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson again warned the board Monday that poor revenue collections could mean the state would not fully fund schools during the current fiscal year.

This comes right when the district should be completing its new budget.

A sex ed poster at a Shawnee middle school has inspired a new bill at the Kansas statehouse. Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, who introduced the bill, says that a poster like that could have serious repercussions on a young child's mind.

Can knowledge be harmful? Can something that's seen and learned — especially when it comes to sex education — be un-seen and un-known? Are information and knowledge the same thing?

Guests:

Shawnee Mission North

It seems Kansas always manages to resurrect an education controversy from its past.

School finance is always a battle, but another old issue that many thought was settled — district consolidation — is back.

The House Education Committee Wednesday will debate a plan that would cut the number of school districts in Kansas in half — from 286 to 132.

Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

While the Gannon school funding case now before the Kansas Supreme Court has garnered most of the attention, there's another school finance case out there and that one has gone all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, known as Petrella, was filed by parents in the Shawnee Mission School District in 2010 against the state. The parents argue the district should be able to raise unlimited local tax money to pay for education. The state right now caps how much money can be spent locally as a way to equalize education for all Kansas kids.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

For decades, cities in Johnson County have quietly used tax increment financing  — or TIF — to lure development.

And for decades, politically, that’s not been questioned.

But TIFs, it turns out, are becoming more contentious in Johnson County, especially in the Shawnee Mission School District. 

"... That dialog has entirely changed recently, in the last year and a half or so, as a result of the preponderance of TIFs,"  says Jim Hinson, the district's superintendent.

Hinson is worried about TIFs for a couple of reasons.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

At an unusual early morning meeting Wednesday, the Shawnee Mission School District board decided to allow a tax increment financing (TIF) project to move forward.

The school board could have vetoed the plan to redevelop the old Meadowbrook County Club at 91st Street and Nall Avenue in Prairie Village. Most of the 133-acre property, about two-thirds, would be turned into a park operated by Johnson County. The rest would be redeveloped into single family homes, a senior living center and a small hotel.

Courtesy photo / Shawnee Mission South

There have been plenty of huge and even historic rock concerts in Kansas City: The Beatles at Municipal Stadium in 1964; the kick off of Michael Jackson’s Victory tour in 1984.

But how about The Who at Shawnee Mission South High School Nov. 17, 1967?

"People cannot believe that The Who was in a Kansas high school," says Vallie Hogan, a 1968 graduate of South. "They just don’t believe it."

The band opened with "Can’t Explain" and ended with "My Generation."

Beth Lipoff / KCUR

After 40 years with the Overland Park Police Department, Chief John Douglass is riding off into the sunset…sort of. He’s not ready for a quiet retirement just yet. Instead, he’s going back to school as the director of safety and for the Shawnee Mission School District next spring. 

On Wednesday's Up to Date, we sit down with Douglass to discuss how policing Overland Park has changed over the years and the new challenges that await him in the coming months.

New Hire Hoped To Change School Notification Flaw

Oct 16, 2013

Shawnee Mission Schools have a new parent and patron notification service for emergencies.

The change grows out of tardy school-alert lockdown messages in September.  There was no harm to anyone as result of the threat.

It took hours for all families to learn an Overland Park School had been locked down for a time.

The District looked for another system and found it with School-Messenger, which claims to serve three thousand big and small school systems around the country including New York City’s.

Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson wrapped up his 87 day listening tour last week. Hinson took over the helm of the Shawnee Mission District on July 1.

The listening tour was part of an effort to get to know the area. Hinson met with everyone from parents and students to business owners and higher education officials.

District spokesperson Leigh Anne Neal says people overwhelmingly want to make sure Shawnee Mission Schools retain their strong academic tradition.

Shawnee Mission School District and Kansas City Public Schools

Budgets, common core, accreditation and aspirations for the year will be some of the topics of our conversation.  Superintendents Jim Hinson from the Shawnee Mission School District and Stephen Green from Kansas City Public Schools  join in a discussion of the pressing issues facing our schools and taking questions and comments from the community.

A suburban Kansas City elementary school will remain closed until Monday due to an as-yet-undetermined gastro-intestinal illness.