education funding

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

As a tax plan continues to elude the Kansas House of Representatives, the state is preparing for severe budget cuts in case the Legislature can’t close a $400 million budget hole.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, wanted to know just how badly an across-the-board 6.2 percent budget cut would harm schools.

The answer from the Kansas State Department of Education: $197 million statewide.

Locally, Kansas City, Kansas, schools would lose the most, $10.8 million next year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

As Kansas educators await a district court ruling on the constitutionality of block grant funding passed by the Legislature this session, one local school district says it will be forced to make deep cuts.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Next week Kansas lawmakers will resume hammering out a budget for next year and trying to fill a $400 million deficit over the next two years.

But school districts all over the state are already feeling some pain.

Lower than expected revenue has already resulted in school budgets being cut for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

A new tally from the Kansas Association of School Boards shows 26 districts across the state that have either cut spending or anticipates doing so in the next eight weeks.

alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

While Kansas schools are paying close attention to the state budget, they’re also tracking an ongoing court case that could drastically change the education funding picture in the state.

On the same day the new consensus revenue estimate for the next three years was released Monday, a three-judge panel in Shawnee County once again made it clear it was a player in school finance.

In an email sent to lawyers in the case, the panel reminded them that it will hear testimony at a May 7 hearing on all outstanding K-through-12 finance issues. That includes block grant legislation passed this session and how much the Legislature will spend on public schools.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There’s probably not an educator in Kansas who isn’t waking up this morning with a bit of queasiness.

Monday is the day of the consensus revenue estimate, an awful bureaucratic phrase that has far reaching, real-world effects.

Economists from state government and academia will lock themselves in a room in Topeka and they will look into the future.

Rama / Wikimedia Commons

Updated Wednesday, 9:21 a.m.:

According to the Jackson County Election Board's unofficial results for Tuesday's municipal election, Independence's levy increase passed with 64 percent approval and Lee's Summit's bond issue passed with nearly 80 percent approval.

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Cody Newill / KCUR

More than a dozen education activists are marching 60 miles from Merriam, Kansas to Topeka for the third year in a row to protest how the state funds public schools.

The walkers from Game On for Kansas Schools were greeted by hundreds of supporters in Lawrence Saturday. The group takes issue with the state legislature's decisions to fund schools through block grants and replace the old funding formula with an outcome based method.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

Not 12 hours after Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation that would fund public schools in Kansas with block grants, the law has been challenged in court.

The motion was filed in Shawnee County District Court by several schools districts, including Kansas City, Kan., which have sued the state claiming it is under funding K-12 public education.

The motion alleges the block grant law violates the Kansas Constitution because it freezes funding for the next two years. A three-judge panel has ruled that the state failed to provide enough money to adequately educate students. 

The Kansas House has voted to scrap the current school funding system in Kansas and replace it with block grants for two years. That would give legislators time to craft a new formula.

There was a contentious debate Thursday and the bill won initial approval on a 64-58 vote.

Republican Rep. Ron Ryckman admits change isn’t easy, but he says the plan will give Kansas school districts more local control over how they spend their dollars.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Educators say they’re more concerned than ever about legislation that would drastically change the way Kansas schools are funded.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican leaders in the Legislature want to scrap the current school funding formula. They say it’s too complicated.

While that formula is rewritten, they want to temporarily fund schools through block grants.

Senate Bill 71 is currently before the Ways and Means Committee of the Kansas Senate.  If it becomes law, it could immediately force school districts to rework their current budgets. Steve Kraske and guests examine the bill.  

Guests:

Sam Zeff / KCUR

When they’re not talking about how to fund education in the Kansas Statehouse, they’re talking about how to change it. How to improve it. How to get better results with the same money.

Six school districts across the state are now rolling out something that may do all of that.

The school districts in Concordia, Marysville, McPherson, Blue Valley, Hugoton and Kansas City, Kan., are all part of something called the Coalition of Innovative School Districts and they all want, among other things, to license teachers differently. In a way, they say, that works best for them.

A committee in the Kansas House has advanced a plan to balance the current fiscal year’s budget. The bill transfers money from sources like the state highway fund, and makes other changes, to help fill a budget hole. But lawmakers decided not to take as much as originally planned from a fund for kids’ programs.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A bill in the Kansas Senate would reduce the amount of state aid to most school districts in Kansas in the current fiscal year.

The measure is what educators in Kansas feared the most — a bill that would force districts to cut their budgets before the current fiscal year ends in July.

The measure would cut state aid for Local Option Budgets, that portion of school budgets raised through local property tax.

The state provides money to help equalize those taxes between wealthy and low-income districts.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The watch word for school funding in Kansas is now block grants. But how that will work remains a mystery to educators.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to scrap the current per pupil funding formula which, he says, is complicated and inefficient.

While lawmakers try to write a new formula, Brownback proposes to give school districts lump sum payments over the next two fiscal years equal to about what they receive now.

Across the state, that’s $3 billion in aid to local school districts.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Charles and David Koch are well known for funding political campaigns, but the Kochs also donate tens of millions of dollars to colleges and universities.

Nothing unusual about wealthy people giving to higher education, but some professors warn that Koch funding can come with conditions that threaten academic freedom, and that has sparked a debate about the influence of big donors in an age of diminishing public university funding.

Nine-by-nine

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Most of the attention this election season has focused on the big Kansas state races — the governor’s seat and U.S. Senate. The latest polls put Democratic and independent candidates within striking distance of Republican incumbents, something that’s almost unheard of in this deep-red state.

In some parts of Kansas, Democrats are hoping to capitalize on discontent with incumbents at the top of the ticket and pick up a few more statehouse seats. Which brings us to the moderate District 25 in northeast Johnson County.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

If you wandered into the St. Joseph, Missouri School District convocation a couple of weeks ago you would probably think everything in the district is just fine.

The 2,000 faculty and staff jammed into the Civic Center downtown were loud and seemed primed for the start of the 2014-2015 school year. But everyone in the arena that morning knew the district was in serious trouble.

Since April the FBI, a federal grand jury in Kansas City and the Missouri State Auditor have all been investigating the district of 11,000 students.

Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, continues to push public schools as the cornerstone of his campaign.

At a stop in Topeka, Davis claimed a second term for Republican Gov. Sam Brownback could mean cuts to public schools.

Davis, speaking at an elementary school, pointed to a report from the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department. It shows the state facing a more than $200 million budget deficit in 2016. Davis says the tax cuts pushed by Brownback will lead to the deficit, which will in turn, lead to funding cuts for education.

Wikimedia Commons / Harvard Business School

It's a struggle today for college students to pay their tuition. As costs continue to rise, states are backing away from funding higher education. Steve Kraske talks with the co-author of a recent report on this very problem. They look at why lawmakers in so many states are turning their backs on helping students get their degrees.

Learn More: Find out who pays for public higher education, the state or the student.

Attorneys for the group that sued Kansas over school funding have issued a statement critical of the plan the Legislature sent to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Sunday.

Attorney John Robb expressed concerns that the plan shifts money from some programs for at-risk students, allows more well-to-do districts to increase local funding, and reduces revenues that could go for schools by offering tax credits for private school scholarships.

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.

The Kansas House Appropriations Committee will start hearings Monday on a budget bill to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling over education funding. But it looks like the issues in the bill will stretch beyond just school spending.

The budget bill before the committee includes other policy items like rewriting teacher licensure rules. Chairman Marc Rhoades, a Newton Republican, told committee members last week about the broad scope of the discussion.

This week, a Kansas House committee could consider a bill to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding. It comes after the process got off to a rocky start last week.

The bill would increase money for certain education funds that are aimed at reducing disparities between districts. But the bill includes other education policy changes, and the lawmaker who introduced it included an expansion of charter schools in the proposal.

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The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that the state needs to increase funding for public K-12 schools, but sent the decision back to the Shawnee County District Court to enforce.

Gov. Sam Brownback met with education officials and some top Republican lawmakers Monday to discuss school finance. The gathering comes as the Kansas Supreme Court considers a lawsuit over education spending and lawmakers prepare for the 2014 legislative session.

Brownback says the closed-door meeting was aimed at bringing together his office, education officials that represent local districts and lawmakers. He says those groups have not always seen eye-to-eye on the issue of education funding, leading to lawsuits.

A group of Kansas lawmakers will begin visiting college and university campuses this week to talk budget issues. The visits come in the wake of nearly $50 million in budget cuts over two years passed by legislators.

Lawmakers have said they want to talk to university officials about efficiency and how they spend money. Gov. Sam Brownback, who opposed the funding cuts, says he wants lawmakers to learn more about the role of higher education in Kansas and the impact of the cuts.

The first Kansas legislative session since 1861 to extend into June is over.  But the budget plan passed early Sunday is a frustration for a number of agencies and institutions; one is the Kansas University Medical Center.

Officials aren’t yet sure what the new budget will mean; in a speech this spring, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little worried about a projected cut and the wide reach, particularly on the university’s satellite operations.

The Kansas Supreme Court today has put on hold a decision from a district court that ordered Kansas lawmakers to hike spending on public schools.

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