school funding

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

The Kansas Legislative session is winding down but as it does, you can almost feel the tension ratcheting up.

Two senate committees were working on bills bitterly opposed by educators from across the state.

Some got to the Statehouse just as the doors opened to testify against a bill that would force teachers unions to have a recertification election yearly.

By midmorning, teachers, superintendents and the school board association were breathing easier after the bill was passed out of the Commerce Committee with recertification every three years.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Ever since the Kansas Supreme Court ruled education block grants unconstitutional and ordered the Legislature to make school funding between districts equitable, many have wondered just how lawmakers will fix the problem before a June 30 deadline.

If the problem isn't fixed by then the Supreme Court says it will close down public education in Kansas.

University of Kansas Hospital

The University of Kansas and KU Medical Center stand to lose the most from $17 million worth of cuts announced by Gov. Sam Brownback Tuesday. 

The state Board of Regents itemized those across-the-board cuts Wednesday.

Kansas Board of Regents

The news that Kansas came up $54 million short of revenue projections in February was bad enough. But a few minutes after the Department of Revenue released the report, the news got worse.

In a statement posted to his official website, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was immediately cutting $17 million from the state Board of Regents budget, a 3 percent cut to the state's six biggest institutions of higher learning.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

This story is part of the NPR reporting project School Money, a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

Updated, April 29:

There is a showdown coming in the next few days in the Kansas Supreme Court.

The high court will hear oral arguments on a school funding lawsuit filed five years ago and now just coming to a head.

It’s hard to keep up with Kansas government these days. From balancing the budget, to school finance formula and recent "communist" name-calling, Up To Date checks in with statehouse reporters to try and make sense of it all.

Guests:

  • Bryan Lowry is the statehouse reporter for The Wichita Eagle. 
  • Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Kansas Public Radio.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Kansas Rep. James Todd (R-Overland Park) provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss education funding, judicial appointments, and the budget.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Kansas Rep. James Todd (R-Overland Park) provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss education funding, judicial appointments, and the budget.

Guests:

A momentous decision from the Kansas Supreme Court came down this morning. It says block-grant funding is unconstitutional and also indicates that if the state can’t find a ‘constitutionally equitable’ way to fund public schools, then they will shut down June 30. Hear first reactions from school officials and Kansas residents.

Guests:

File photo

In a ruling that has Kansas educators cheering, the state Supreme Court has upheld a district court panel ruling that block grant school funding is unconstitutional.

In a near unanimous ruling, the justices said the state is not meeting its equity burden under the state Constitution, which mandates that Kansas children have a right to an equal education whether they live in a poor or rich district.

The justices, as they have historically done, did not order the Legislature to spend a specific amount to fix the equity issue.

Debating Education Funding In Kansas

Feb 10, 2016

Should the current funding model for Kansas schools be changed?  On this edition of Up to Date, we talk with three young people who debated that issue February 9 as part of Debate KC.

Guests:

  • Alex Trobaugh is a senior at Sumner Academy in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • Candace Villanueva is a graduate of Sumner Academy and currently works for Johnson County Community College.
  • Kayla Gilmore is a student at Emporia State University.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The consolidation of school districts in Kansas is off the table at least for now. The legislation would have cut in half the number of school districts in the state. 

When the bill had a hearing in the House Education Committee, it was clear opposition was mounting from all over the state. The room was packed, many educators driving hours to testify against the bill.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

There seems to be a growing tenseness over the future of education in Kansas.

The fight last year over block grant funding was hardball and, at times, ugly.

Teachers felt under the gun and many decided to leave the state.

But educators say the attacks this legislative session feel particularly bitter and contentious

You could feel it in room 112 North in the Kansas Statehouse where the House Education Committee meets.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has given lawmakers a budget that balances on paper.

But it remains to be seen whether legislators will agree to the complex formula of spending reductions, budget transfers and administrative changes that Brownback is proposing to erase a projected $436 million shortfall in the budget year that begins July 1.

Lobbyists representing several groups and causes are lining up in opposition to many of the changes.

Shawnee Mission North

It seems Kansas always manages to resurrect an education controversy from its past.

School finance is always a battle, but another old issue that many thought was settled — district consolidation — is back.

The House Education Committee Wednesday will debate a plan that would cut the number of school districts in Kansas in half — from 286 to 132.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Three hugely controversial bills will dominate the Kansas House Education Committee starting Monday afternoon with the crescendo building to Wednesday. That's when legislators will debate a measure that would consolidate school districts in the state, cutting the number by more than half.

For this 50th episode, we recorded Statehouse Blend live in front of a studio audience at Westport Flea Market. We explore the most pressing issues of 2016 with KCUR's Sam Zeff and Steve Kraske, and with guests Republican Rep. John Rubin and Democratic Rep. John Wilson.

Guests:

  • John Rubin, Representative from District 014, Kansas Legislature
  • John Wilson, Representative from, Kansas Legislature 
  • Steve Kraske, Host of Up To Date, KCUR

Kansas Supreme Court

As the Kansas Legislature begins work, there was a 90-page document filed with the state Supreme Court Tuesday that reminds lawmakers just how difficult their task will be in formulating a new budget.

Governor Sam Brownback laid out his legislative goals during the 2016 State of the State Address Tuesday night. He took the president to task and touched on high-profile state issues like education spending. 

Brownback laid the groundwork in his speech by referencing what he and lawmakers had done in Kansas in recent years. He touted tax policy, the unemployment rate and job growth.

“Kansans are finding good jobs right here at home. Working together, we’ve created an economic environment where new filings for new businesses have increased by 15 percent,” said Brownback.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The hearing room in the Kansas Statehouse was packed with educators, lawmakers and lobbyists, all gathered to watch the fight over an interim committee report that surprised even the closest watchers of the process.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

An interim joint Kansas legislative committee has issued a report short on specifics but long on suggestions that could fundamentally change how education is funded and delivered in the state.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A special joint interim legislative committee has been holding hearings on it, and many Kansas educators would say for the New Year all they want is a new school funding formula.

But the chairman of the state House Education Committee says he doesn't see a replacement for the current block grant funding scheme passing this legislative session. "But in reality, does anyone really think it'll be done by the end of session this year? I don't think so," says Rep. Ron Highland, a conservative Republican from Wamego.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is still a few weeks away and already lawmakers are grappling with what to do about school funding.

A special committee set up to make recommendations on a new formula wanted to know if spending more money leads to better classroom achievement.

At a hearing Wednesday lawmakers heard yes from Mark Tallman, associate executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards. He said KASB research not only shows the more you spend the better the outcomes, but Kansas is one of the most efficient states in the country.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Rep. Linda Gallagher from Lenexa provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss KDOT funding, education, and guns.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

  • Linda Gallagher, Representative for the 23rd District, Kansas Legislature
  • Cameron Baraban, citizen
  • Maria Carter, News Director, KCUR

Credit Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear the appeal of a group of Shawnee Mission parents who want limits lifted on how much local school districts can raise in local taxes.

However, this is not the end of the court case.

The high court refused the case, called Petrella, without comment.

The parents sued the state five years ago arguing that if patrons want to tax themselves more to pay for schools, the state shouldn’t be allowed to stop them. Kansas law caps how much local school districts can spend in local property taxes.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Public schools often go to great lengths to account for their students.

For RosaLinda Aviles, an attendance and dropout specialist for Kansas City Public Schools, it’s her primary duty.

Based at Northeast High School, she helps oversee a nine-school zone. If a student has been absent for several days, teachers will notify her. She and a district social worker then will try to intervene.

"Often the teachers will know a lot more about what's going, so that's helpful," Aviles says. "We then can call, send a letter, or do a home visit."

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Kansas Rep. Linda Gallagher from Lenexa provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss KDOT funding, education, and guns.

Guests:

  • Linda Gallagher, Representative for the 23rd District, Kansas Legislature
  • Cameron Baraban, citizen
  • Maria Carter, News Director, KCUR

It is still unknown what the impact of the landmark Gannon school finance case will be, since the Kansas Supreme Court won't ultimately decide on it until sometime next year. 

What is clearer now, though, is the state's stance on what role the Court should play in determining funding for Kansas public education. In short, the state thinks the Court has no role. Briefs filed in Gannon Monday by the state essentially tell the Court to stay out of its legislative business. 

Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

While the Gannon school funding case now before the Kansas Supreme Court has garnered most of the attention, there's another school finance case out there and that one has gone all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, known as Petrella, was filed by parents in the Shawnee Mission School District in 2010 against the state. The parents argue the district should be able to raise unlimited local tax money to pay for education. The state right now caps how much money can be spent locally as a way to equalize education for all Kansas kids.

Kansas Supreme Court

While public schools in Kansas deal with frozen budgets and lawmakers prepare for another session dominated by fights over school funding, there is a small group of people profiting: lawyers representing the state and school districts in the case now before thes Kansas Supreme Court.

The Gannon case was filed in 2010 and since then both sides have incurred a total of more than $5.5 million in attorney fees, as well as travel, expert witness and lobbying costs.

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