school funding

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Olathe Public Schools is facing a $2 million dollar budget deficit this year.

To close most of that, the Kansas district is laying off 80 people.

But the district also is cutting a program for rookie teachers.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The July meeting of the Olathe Public Schools usually has been pro forma, even a little boring, with election of board officers and some statutorily required actions.

But not Thursday night's meeting. The board, three of whom were just elected, got the news that the district has a $2 million deficit and up to 80 layoffs may be needed to close the gap.

Julia Szabo / KCUR

On Tuesday, the Kansas State Board of Education will be presented with some disturbing numbers.

In the past five years, the number of teachers leaving Kansas to teach in other states has steadily grown.

Julia Szabo / KCUR

In the next couple of years, Kansas education will face some of its most unstable times ever.

The Legislature has cut classroom funding. There’s no school finance formula and the the whole system may be thrown into chaos depending on what the state Supreme Court does.

All of this is all taking a toll on recruiting and retaining teachers, and there's mounting evidence that Kansas teachers are becoming disenchanted. And out-of-state districts are taking advantage.

Lauren Manning / Flickr--CC

The state of Kansas is off the hook, for now, for $50 million in back payments to school districts across the state.

Lawyers for the four school districts suing the state, including Kansas City, Kansas, say they expected all along that the order from a three-judge panel in Shawnee County would be stayed by the state Supreme Court.

Late Tuesday evening the high court did just that.

The state appealed last Friday's order from the panel that ordered all back payments to districts be made by Wednesday.

Kansas Attorney General's Office

As expected, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt quickly appealed Friday's court ruling finding most of the block grant funding law unconstitutional and ordering the state to make millions of dollars in back payments to school districts by Wednesday.

In a statement, Schmidt said a three-judge Shawnee County District Court panel broke new legal ground with its order, "including attempting to reinstate laws that the Legislature repealed months ago."

The language in the appeal takes the court to task. Schmidt called the order "cynical, calculated and unfortunately political" because the panel "issued its decision on the very day and barely one hour after the Legislature finally adjourned."

Sam Zeff / KCUR

On the 114th and final day of the Kansas legislative session, a court ruling feared by lawmakers and eagerly anticipated by most educators was handed down .

A three-judge Shawnee County District Court panel ruled Friday that block grant school funding, one of the signature issues for conservatives in the Legislature, is unconstitutional.

Lawmakers in the Kansas House were sharply divided over a tax bill debated Weednesday night. The measure seemed to be on its way to failure before the vote was paused at midnight by a legislative rule.

Republican Rep. Marvin Kleeb urged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying it was likely their last option to avoid cuts to state services like K-12 education. They’ve already approved a budget, but it needs around $400 million in new revenue to balance.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

While the broader battle over a tax plan in the Kansas Legislature continues, a few nights ago the Senate managed to slip in a last minute provision that makes it a lot easier to obtain tax credits for private and religious school scholarships in the state.

The mission of the legislation is laudable: provide scholarships to at-risk kids to go to private or parochial schools.

But there's a catch. People or corporations in the state receive a tax credit for providing the scholarship money. The state will allow up to $10 million a year in such credits.

Louisburg USD 416

Usually by this time of year school districts in Kansas know how much money they’re going to get for next year and they can spend the summer working on a detailed budget.

This is not any year.

The legislature is nowhere near passing a budget and last week a court held a hearing on a lawsuit that may toss out what lawmakers do anyway.

At that hearing Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis, perhaps the leading expert on school finance in Kansas, testified that all school districts will lose some funding under block grants.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

While this case has been hanging over the state for the past five years much of the hearing Thursday before a three judge panel in Shawnee County District Court was spent on what has happened in just the past few months.

The four school districts suing the state, including Kansas City, Kansas, have asked the panel to halt further implementation of block grant funding, a school finance plan just passed this year by the legislature.

Block grants would essentially freeze funding for schools across the state while a new formula is written by lawmakers.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

There’s a school funding showdown Thursday in a Kansas courtroom.

Two court cases have been a huge part of the debate in the state over how much the legislature should spend on public education. But the real battle is between Kansas history and modern state politics.

When the hearing begins in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka there will be complicated testimony and evidence all lashed together with mind numbing legalese.

There’s a blizzard of paper with captions like: Plaintiff’s Response to Motion to Add to the Record on Remand.

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.

Lauren Manning / Flickr--CC

Four Kansas school districts will end the school year early because state aid has been cut for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The Smoky Valley School District in Lindsborg, just south of Salina, which serves about 1,000 students, says it will close three days early due to a $162,000 budget cut.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It's hard to keep up with how schools in Kansas might be funded.

First it was a debate over block grants. Now it's a new plan that's mostly based on graduate outcomes.

The new funding formula legislation is a result of months of meetings between Sen. Steve Abrams of Arkansas City, chairman of the senate Education Committee, and educators from around the state.

It would base funding on student population and factors such as poverty, something superintendents and school board members stressed was important.

Now that it appears block grants will replace the current school funding formula in Kansas, work has already begun on a new formula.

The block grants, which moved swiftly through the Legislature, were always meant to be a bridge between the current formula and a new one set to go into effect in two years.

This week a bill from Senate Education Committee chairman Steve Abrams, a Republican from Arkansas City, will start to be worked on.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Why is the Kansas school funding formula so complicated? Or is it, really? Get a lesson on school funding, how the formula works, and why it will likely soon be replaced by block grants.

(Try and solve the formula yourself, here.)

Guests:

  • Sam Zeff, KCUR education reporter
  • Brad Tennant, math teacher, Shawnee Mission West

In many states, funding for schools is determined by a complicated formula that adjusts the basic per pupil funding according to set of factors like how many students are considered “at-risk,” receive bilingual services, ride buses or whether enrollment is declining. A bill awaiting Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature would bypass the school funding formula for the next two years in favor of block grants to districts.

A bill that scraps the school funding system in Kansas has passed the Legislature and is heading to the governor’s desk for consideration. The Senate voted 25-14 to concur with a bill that had previously passed the Kansas House. It would temporarily create a block grant system while lawmakers write a new funding formula.

Supporters of the bill say it has $300 million in new funding and gives Kansas schools more flexibility. Republican Senate President Susan Wagle says the bill lets them start over and ditches a school funding formula she calls “broken.”

A bill that would replace the school funding formula in Kansas with block grants has been speeding through the legislative process. It could stay on the fast track this week and could be on the governor’s desk in mere days.

The bill passed the House on a tight vote just over a week after it was introduced. Republican Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce says the Senate could move to simply agree to the House bill as soon as Monday. That would skip sending the bill through the normal committee process in the Senate, but Bruce says a motion to concur isn’t out of the ordinary

The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday issued an order that may speed up the appeals process in the ongoing court battle over school funding in the state.

In December a three-judge panel of Shawnee County District Court ruled that the state's school funding formula is constitutional but underfunded. 

While the panel did not say how much more money is needed, it suggested it could be as much as $522 million.

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

This week some very dire budget predictions came out of Topeka: In the next two years Kansas may come up $1 billion short of expenses.

But that’s in the future. Right now the state has to find $279 million.

When budget experts gathered Monday, school districts all across Kansas were watching closely.

They knew if the projected budget shortfall for the rest of this fiscal year was bad, they faced potential cuts in state funding.

Not next year but this year — money already budgeted would be lost.

city-data

We all knew education was going to be an important issue in the race for Kansas governor.

But in the last three weeks of the campaign it just might turn out to 'the' issue.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, have charged each other with dastardly education deeds for weeks.

At a news conference last month in Topeka, Davis accused the governor of cutting education funding.

“All we’ve gotten from Gov. Brownback on education is deep cuts and failed leadership," he said.

city-data

There are two big issues in the race for Kansas governor this year: How to fund education and how to grow the economy.

Republican incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback is standing firm on cutting taxes to boost the economy.

Brownback has cut income taxes for individuals and eliminated them for small businesses. He says this will spur business development and thus the economy will grow.

But House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Davis has a very different idea.

Davis says he will drive economic growth by spending more on education.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Everyone knew education was going to be an issue in the race for Kansas governor.

In debates and TV commercials, Republican incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback says he’s increased spending on public schools. His Democratic challenger, House Minority leader Paul Davis from Lawrence, claims Brownback has cut funding.

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.

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.

Dignitaries applaud as Governor Sam Brownback signs a bill lowering employers' unemloyment insurance costs.
Steve Bell

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was in kansas City, Kansas Tuesday for the official signing of a bill that substantially reduces the percentage rate employers are required to pay into the state's Unemployment Trust Fund.

Brownback used the occasion to tout what he called a call, growing Kansas economy.

"People have said you can't cut taxes, create a business-friendly environment and fund state government," he said, adding, "Well, yes you can, and we are."

After the ceremony, the governor also commented on several bills on or soon coming to his desk.

Work on education funding bills continues in the Kansas Statehouse. The legislation is being considered in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that said there are unconstitutional funding disparities between school districts.

Lawmakers are expected to start work this week on a solution, but committee work Monday was delayed.

Republican Sen. Ty Masterson from Andover  says they're not yet in a position to begin work on a proposal.

It's not clear how lawmakers will comply with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that says the state has created inequalities between schools districts. The ruling says lawmakers violated the Kansas Constitution by cutting funds that help equalize school district budgets.

The group that filed that lawsuit, and some lawmakers, say they believe the solution is to restore more than $100 million in education funds.

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