school funding

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, we discuss the political implications of the Gannon school funding case.


Charles Riedel / AP

You couldn't have gotten a more different picture of school finance and student success in Kansas than we heard during two hours of oral arguments Wednesday in the state Supreme Court.

The state argued that every public school in Kansas is accredited and an analysis by the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) says Kansas schools rank 10th in the country.

Kansas Supreme Court

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear two hours of oral arguments Wednesday in the Gannon school funding case.

It's hard to imagine an educator, lawmaker or legislative candidate not sitting on the edge of their seat looking for a clue as to how the justices will rule.

Here are some FAQs on the hearing:

So you're telling me the case is still going? Didn't we just have a big Gannon story not long ago?

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Two weeks ago Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said the state needed a new school funding formula and called on educators to email him their suggestions.

At his Statehouse news conference Brownback offered no specific ideas.

On Thursday, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) talked about what should be in a new formula next year. But, like the governor, the organization offered few details. KASB did urge everyone to email.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

It has taken six years, but Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback finally reached out to educators and others on Wednesday to ask for ideas on how to fund public education.

The plea comes after many of Brownback's conservative legislative allies were ousted in the August primaries, and it appears more conservatives may lose their seats in November. It also comes in the final year of the block grant funding scheme passed when lawmakers scrapped the previous formula, which was popular with most school districts.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The postmortem on the primary election in Kansas is still going on. How did moderates oust so many incumbent conservatives?

One big reason is the unexpected emergence of a couple of grassroots education groups in Johnson County, especially one that sprang up just a few months ago.

On primary election night, Johnson County Republicans were gathered at the Marriott, their traditional place.

One by one, moderates picked off conservative seats in the Kansas House and Senate.

And in one corner, a group of moms was a little giddy.

One of the school funding lawsuits that has been hanging over the head of Kansas has been dismissed.         

The lawsuit is called Petrella and was filed in federal court by a group of Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) parents.

They argued that the district, one of the wealthiest in Kansas, should be able to raise and spend as much local tax money as it wants.

Kansas law caps how much local money a district can spend.

 Julia Szabo
KCUR 89.3

The number of teachers leaving Kansas or simply quitting the profession has dramatically increased over the last four years.

The annual Licensed Personnel Report was released Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Education. While it was provided to the Board of Education meeting in Topeka Tuesday, the report was buried in board documents and not addressed by either staff or the board.

The report shows that 1,075 teachers left the profession last year, up from 669 four years ago. That's a 61 percent increase.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

It only took a few minutes for the Kansas State Board of Education to approve $7.2 million in extraordinary needs funding for school districts across the state. The extra money will go to 34 school districts. Three districts didn't get any money.

The six local districts who applied for the additional state aid didn't get all they wanted but still did well.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

Schools around Kansas are just a couple of weeks from opening for the new school year, but about three dozen districts say they need more state aid and have applied for extraordinary needs funding.

In all, 37 districts are asking for about $8.4 million from the state Board of Education. There is about $15 million in the pool. All districts contribute a small portion of their state aid to the pool.

Two of the biggest requests come from the two of the smaller districts in this area: Spring Hill in Johnson County and Basehor-Linwood in Leavenworth County. 

Americans tend to think that each election is a littler dirtier than the last. Certainly that is the feeling among many candidates running for the Kansas Legislature as attack postcards fill mailboxes as the Aug. 2 primary quickly approaches.

This year the postcards often focus on education. Who is for kids and who is against them? Let's use the Republican primary for House District 21, which includes Prairie Village, Mission Hills plus chunks of Overland Park and Leawood, as an example.

Meet Democrats Bill Hutton and Don Terrien competing to oust incumbent Republican Senator Steve Fitzgerald to represent Kansas Senate District 5.


The man who has testified dozens of times in the Kansas Legislature saying that public schools are over-funded, administrators and some teachers make too much money and school districts operate inefficiently, once called for lawmakers to raise taxes to improve schools.

Dave Trabert now runs the Kansas Policy Institute and is a powerful voice among conservative lawmakers. On its website, KPI calls itself "an independent think-tank that advocates for free market solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans." 

The Shawnee Mission School District and its teachers were unable Wednesday to reach a deal on compensation, so the talks will now go to a federal mediator, according to the teachers union.

The negotiations fell apart when the union asked for a $1,350 stipend for teachers who won't get a raise next year as they progress through the salary schedule.

“Most people who go to work and work hard like to see some sort of increase to keep up, in the very least, with the cost of living,” says union president Linda Sieck.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

This week I did a story on a group of Democrats and moderate Republicans who are already working on a new school finance formula in advance of the 2017 session which will gavel in come January.

The story was based on an interview I did with Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly from Topeka on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Kelly is the senate minority whip.

KHI News Service

While most Kansas educators are still breathing a sigh of relief that the school funding equity issue was solved in a special session and public schools could remain open, some lawmaker are already looking ahead to the new session in January.

Sen. Laura Kelly, the minority whip from Topeka, says a small bipartisan group has already begun meeting to draft a new school funding formula to replace block grants, which expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The plan, drafted by Democrats and moderate Republicans, is based a great deal on the old formula.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about the University of Kansas Medical Center: For almost 40 years KU doctors have been flying around the state to bring their expertise to small towns.

But in another unintended consequence, budget cuts in Kansas have drastically cut back this service.

About 6:45 a.m. on an already steamy June morning, seven KU Med staffers pile on a twin-engine King Air at the Downtown Kansas City Airport.

Cramped but certainly comfortable, they're about to take off on a 40 minute flight to Hutchinson.

While many educators are spending the summer on the campaign trail, the sign outside a public elementary school in Wichita urges voters to register.
Abigail Wilson / KMUW

To say that many educators in Kansas are fed up with state lawmakers would be an understatement. The legislature has been putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on public schools in recent years. This election season, educators are trying to send legislators packing.

The Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) estimates that all across the state roughly 50 current and former school board members, administrators, and teachers are candidates in legislative elections.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

Do you remember not long ago when Kansas was on the edge of facing a public education shutdown? Many feared schools would be closed July 1. Some even believed they may not be open for the start of the school year in August.

The unconstitutional inequity between rich and poorer districts appeared to be a problem the Legislature couldn't solve.

Wikimedia Commons - CC

Kansas lawmakers have approved a school funding plan that they say will end the risk of a legal fight closing Kansas schools. The bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling that says the funding system was unfair to poorer school districts.

Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley joined a large bipartisan majority Friday night that supported the bill.

“Regardless of who came up with the plan, what matters is that what we did today was put the children of Kansas first. This is a responsible plan that solves the problem,” said Hensley.

United States Mission Geneva / Wikimedia Commons--CC

Four former governors have banded together to “Save Kansas” from Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters.

In a letter circulated Friday, former Govs. Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Graves, Mike Hayden and John Carlin urged Kansas Democrats, Republicans and Independents to band together “to regain our fiscal health and stop the calculated destruction of our revenue stream and our educational, healthcare, and transportation systems.

The Kansas Senate has narrowly defeated a constitutional amendment that would have prevented courts from closing public schools in the future. Lawmakers are currently in a legal dispute with the Kansas Supreme Court over education funding that could result in schools closing July 1.

The proposal was designed to prevent courts as well as lawmakers from shuttering schools. Republican Sen. Jeff King said he pushed the amendment so that Kansas voters could consider the idea on the November ballot.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A school funding plan has been making fast progress in the Kansas Legislature, passing out of both House and Senate committees Thursday. The proposal will cut the general state aid all school districts receive by .5 percent, then redistribute that money to assist poorer school districts.

It also takes funding from several other places for a total of $38 million. Republican Sen. Ty Masterson believes the bill can win legislative and judicial approval and prevent schools from shutting down.

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. 

KHI News Service

The Vice President of the Kansas Senate says the special session set to gavel in on Thursday will probably stretch into early next week. That would move the Legislature even closer to a June 30 school shutdown deadline, and make the session longer than Gov. Sam Brownback suggested it would take to fix the inequity that exists between rich and poor school districts in Kansas.

“We’re probably looking at more like three to five days if all goes well,” Sen. Jeff King from Independence said on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend.

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.

The Kansas Board of Regents met Wednesday afternoon to approve tuition increases for the next school year. The board thought it was going to do that last month, but during the meeting Gov. Sam Brownback announced he was cutting an additional $30 million out of higher education.

So, at their last regular meeting until September, the Regents found themselves having to approve even higher tuition hikes.

Claire Banderas / KCUR

The Kansas Legislature is preparing to go into special session to remedy a school funding formula that the Kansas Supreme Court ruled is unconstitutional. The court told the Legislature they have until June 30 to remedy the formula, or schools will be closed

Last year, we asked our listeners to solve the Kansas School Funding Formula. As news develops around a potential public education shutdown in Kansas, we break out our calculators and enter the Kansas school funding debate. When legislators go back to Topeka next week, what will go into solving the state's toughest math problem?

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will call state lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session to work on school funding issues. In a statement, Brownback said he made the decision after consulting with legislative leaders.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley says the governor’s priority is avoiding a school shutdown caused by a lawsuit over school funding.

“They’re going to work very hard to keep the special session focused on the issue of education to make sure the courts do not close our schools and the kids can go back to school,” says Hawley.