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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.