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school funding

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.

File Photo / Kansas 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 / Kansas Public Radio

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.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

While most school districts in Kansas prepare for a possible shutdown at the end of the month, educators are looking for some guidance from the state Department of Education (KSDE).       

Everyone is waiting to see whether there will be a special session of the Kansas Legislature to try and fix the inequity between rich and poor districts.

If it’s not fixed by the end of the month, the state Supreme Court has said it will prohibit districts from spending or raising money.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

For the first time, someone in leadership in the Kansas Legislature has called for a special session to craft a solution to school funding inequity that will satisfy the state Supreme Court and head off a possible shutdown of schools by month's end.

Rep. Ron Ryckman from Olathe, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, sent a letter addressed to "Colleagues" suggesting now is the time to act.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

While many school districts in Kansas are preparing plans for a possible shutdown by the state Supreme Court, the Shawnee Mission School District in Johnson County, Kansas, says it will be open on July 1.

Superintendent Jim Hinson says he’s making no contingency plans in case the high court says schools must cease operating.

"We will be open on July 1 and we will start on time in August," says Hinson.

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

Now that the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the Legislature failed to fix inequity, school districts must seriously plan for a possible shut down on June 30.

Here's some questions school officials and parents may be asking.

Are the schools really going to close on June 30?

AP Pool Photo
AP Pool Photo

The Kansas Supreme Court has handed down its decision in the long-awaited Gannon school funding case, and it comes as no surprise to those who have followed its many twists and turns.   

“This case requires us to determine whether the State has met its burden to show that recent legislation brings the State's K-12 public school funding system into compliance with Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution,” the court wrote in an opinion not attributable to any individual judge. “We hold it has not.”

AP pool photo

The Senate race in Kansas isn't expected to be competitive and the governor isn't on the ballot this fall. So, the hardest fought statewide campaign might just involve four people you’ve never heard of.

For the first time ever there will be a coordinated effort to oust state Supreme Court justices.

The bad blood between the state Supreme Court and conservatives in Kansas goes back ten years to when the justices ordered the state to pump more than $500 million dollars more into public education.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

As the Missouri and Kansas 2016 legislative sessions come to an end, Statehouse Blend hosts, Sam Zeff and Brian Ellison, discuss the most impactful and surprising events on both sides of the state line with the assistance of guest host, Kyle Palmer.

AP pool photo

After two and a half hours of oral arguments, the Kansas Supreme Court will now decide whether the state Legislature has solved — in the least — the equity portion of school funding and whether schools will remain open past a June 30 court imposed deadline.

In 13 states, parents and school districts are suing, saying schools aren't getting enough money to serve the needs of students.

In no other state are the courts more baked in to school funding than in Kansas, though.

There, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the latest funding case within the next week. If justices don't approve of the legislators' fix to the system, the court could shut down public schools on June 30.

Kansas' budget woes have resulted in public schools across the state reducing costs and arts education is taking the hit. One Shawnee Mission teacher has had enough of shrinking support for the arts in his district.

Guests:

  • Jonathan Lane is Orchestra Director at Shawnee Mission East High School.
  • Narric Rome is vice-president of Government Affairs and Arts Education for Americans for the Arts.

Stephan Koranda / KPR

The final paperwork has been filed, and now Kansas educators and lawmakers await the May 10 showdown in the state Supreme Court over whether the state is equitably funding public education.

In a 208 page brief filed today with the Court, the plaintiff districts, including Kansas City, Kansas, say the bill passed in the Legislature's waning days does nothing more than move money around the system, could widen the gap between rich and poor districts, calling the whole attempt a "shell game".

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Estimates for Kansas tax collections were ratcheted down sharply Wednesday. The state’s projected revenues dropped by a quarter billion dollars over the next year-and-a-half. That leaves Kansas with a budget deficit, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing plans for erasing the shortfall.

Kansas will need to find $140 million in the current fiscal year to get out of the red. Next fiscal year, which starts in July, will need another $151 million in cuts or new revenue. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, laid out three options for filling the hole.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

In a much anticipated filing with the Kansas Supreme Court,  state Attorney General Derek Schmidt says problems with equity in school funding have been solved and there's no reason for the high court to consider shutting down public education on June 30.

“The Legislature’s good-faith, careful, reasoned and well-documented determination should be given substantial deference,” said Schmidt's 25-page brief filed late Friday afternoon.

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