Celia Llopis-Jepsen

reporter

Celia comes to the Kansas News Service after five years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. She brings in-depth experience covering schools and education policy in Kansas as well as news at the Statehouse. In the last year she has been diving into data reporting. At the Kansas News Service she will also be producing more radio, a medium she’s been yearning to return to since graduating from Columbia University with a master’s in journalism.  

Celia also has a master’s degree in bilingualism studies from Stockholm University in Sweden. Before she landed in Kansas, Celia worked as a reporter for The American Lawyer in New York, translated Chinese law articles, and was a reporter and copy editor for the Taipei Times.

 

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Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

In his 26 years at Meade Unified School District 226, a 400-student district southwest of Dodge City, Superintendent Kenneth Harshberger has watched the educational landscape change.

Teachers are harder to recruit — even for elementary jobs, which were traditionally easier to fill.

“The first time I tried to hire an elementary teacher 25, 26 years ago, we had over 100 applicants,” he recalled. “Now I can’t get five applicants.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The cost of higher education in Kansas continued to swell this week, carrying on a long-running trend in which universities rely increasingly on tuition and fees to operate.

This fall, a full-time semester at the University of Kansas will cost nearly $2,000 more than a decade earlier. The increase at Kansas State University has been similar.

Also over the last decade, the state’s spending per student at Kansas Board of Regents universities has slid.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday signed into law the state’s new school funding formula, which increases aid to schools by $284 million within two years.

In signing Senate Bill 19 into law, Brownback said it directs “more dollars into the classroom by limiting bond and interest aid, encouraging responsible financial stewardship at the local level.” 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

It took 113 days instead of the scheduled 100, but Kansas lawmakers finally ended their 2017 session Saturday.

Their final act was to approve a two-year budget plan that supporters say will start the process of repairing damage done by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But the session’s climatic moment occurred a week earlier when lawmakers overrode Brownback’s veto of a bill that largely reversed those cuts. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The Kansas House and Senate worked into the night Thursday on a state budget, just two days after voting to scuttle Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies amid a projected $900 million shortfall over the next two years.

Negotiators from both chambers launched into evening talks shortly after the House passed a multiyear spending plan that differs from the Senate’s on key points such as pay raises for state employees.

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A school finance bill headed to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk would expand a program that funds private school tuition through tax credits.

Lawmakers passed the changes Monday. The provisions were just one portion of a much larger bill that primarily establishes a new system for funding Kansas public schools. 

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Conservative Republicans, some of whom voted for sweeping tax cuts in 2012 or defended them in the years since, parted ways with Gov. Sam Brownback on tax policy Tuesday — at least long enough to side with moderates and Democrats in overriding his veto of a $1.2 billion tax increase.

The law to increase taxes over the next two years comes as legislators seek to close a projected $900 million budget gap for that same period and bolster funding for K-12 schools under a Kansas Supreme Court order.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The Kansas House is expected Monday morning to debate a mega bill that ties sweeping tax reforms and higher funding for public schools into a single yes-or-no vote.

The latest attempt at sealing elusive deals on income tax and school finance emerged Sunday afternoon following three days of stop-and-go negotiations between the Legislature’s two chambers, which each have passed their own versions of a K-12 bill.

Now lawmakers will vote simultaneously on whether to increase state aid for schools by about $280 million — and scuttle Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax policies.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Senate’s potential new formula for funding Kansas schools is based on spending at 41 districts where — according to a recent statistical analysis — students are doing well academically relative to local poverty rates.

The Kansas Legislative Research Department performed the calculations last month at the request of Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, and the bill based on it would inject around $230 million into K-12 school districts over the next two years.