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school funding

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.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, reporters work with a law professor to make sense of The Gannon v. Kansas school finance lawsuit, and speculate on the outcomes and consequences of that case.

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

Guests:

A panel of state officials has approved more than $4 million in emergency aid for 25 Kansas school districts that requested the additional funding.The money was mostly provided to districts with enrollment growth or falling property values. 

The panel approved $400,000 for Kansas districts with growing student population and more than $350,000 for Wichita Public Schools to help educate refugee students. That district has nearly 100 new refugees from Africa and Asia.

Diane Gjerstad, with the Wichita district, says some of those students have had little formal education.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

No matter how deep in the weeds you go on the current school funding case before the Kansas Supreme Court; whether you're talking assessed valuation per pupil (AVPP) or local option budget (LOB) the case seems to come back to block grant funding passed last session by the Legislature.

Kansas Supreme Court

On Friday morning, the Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments in a school funding case that's gone on for years and could lead to the Legislature being ordered to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on public education.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the case, and some of the history.

I can't remember a time when there wasn't a school funding court case in Kansas. Why is that?

Sam Zeff / KCUR

For decades, cities in Johnson County have quietly used tax increment financing  — or TIF — to lure development.

And for decades, politically, that’s not been questioned.

But TIFs, it turns out, are becoming more contentious in Johnson County, especially in the Shawnee Mission School District. 

"... That dialog has entirely changed recently, in the last year and a half or so, as a result of the preponderance of TIFs,"  says Jim Hinson, the district's superintendent.

Hinson is worried about TIFs for a couple of reasons.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

This story was updated at 9:35 pm

An email to faculty and staff in the Olathe School District has prompted a bitter back-and-forth between the state legislator who authored it and the board of education. It has also triggered suggestions of illegal use of email and a possible Kansas Open Meetings Act violation.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem Denny Hoskins, Republican from District 054provides an insider perspective on the Missouri General Assembly as we discuss education, the Speaker's position, and Missouri's most famous dog, Old Drum.

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

Guests:

  • Denny Hoskins, Rep. from District 054, Missouri General Assembly 
  • Bess Hayles, Teacher from Lee's Summit
  • Kyle Palmer, Newscaster, KCUR

Emory Maiden / Flickr--CC

You might be surprised to hear it, but the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) says it's in a funding crisis that has had a "crippling" effect on everything from class size to property values in the district.

The surprising admission comes in a friend-of-the- court brief the district filed with the Kansas Supreme Court in the pending school finance case.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The Kansas State Department of Education is moving full speed ahead towards its goal of perhaps drastically changing what is taught in public schools.

The department's top two officials brought their case to Johnson County educators and a few lawmakers Tuesday at the Olathe School District headquarters.

"Can we reinvent ourselves and hold on to what we have always done," asked Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson who took over KSDE in July.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

What should a successful 24-year-old know?

That’s the question top Kansas education officials are debating after a tour of the state this summer.

But asking is the easy part. The difficulty comes in figuring out how to actually teach some of the skills.

It's a discussion that could forever change education in Kansas and that conversation comes to Olathe Tuesday morning.

First, know this: the discussion in Kansas is far loftier than how to teach math or reading. It’s at the 50,000 foot level — maybe even 100,000.

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

We’re a month away from a Kansas Supreme Court showdown on whether the state is providing enough money for public schools.

The final briefs in this part of the case were filed Friday.

The arguments from the school districts and the state haven’t changed much over the years.

The school district plaintiffs, including the Kansas City, Kansas School District, say the state needs to provide more money to make sure all Kansas kids get an equal education.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Cynthia Lane has spent half of her career in public education in Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. On Thursday she ascended to the top of her profession in the state when she was named superintendent of the year by the Kansas School Superintendents' Association (KSSA).

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected for this award,” Lane said in a statement. “I accept it on behalf of the Board of Education and the team of people in the district and in the community who work tirelessly to graduate each student prepared for college and careers in a global society."

Liz / Wikimedia Commons

A new survey of teacher salaries in Kansas suggests there might be some long-term problems filling education jobs.

Teacher pay in Kansas has always been below the national average.

But a new report from the Kansas Association of School Boards says teachers in the state are also lagging behind the increased cost of living and nonteachers with the same amount of education.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Mike Besler is a former Kansas state high school champion quarterback and a member of the Blue Valley West High School Hall of Fame. But he still needs a coach. 

"When I first heard, I was kind of like, 'I want my own space.' But now that I've seen how resourceful it is, it's made a world of difference," Besler says. 

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

Lawmakers on the State Finance Council meet Monday in Topeka to determine how much money nearly 40 public school districts in Kansas will get from the state's extraordinary needs fund.

Here are some questions you may have, answered by KCUR's education reporter Sam Zeff. 

1. Kansas has an 'extraordinary needs' fund? What is that?

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It will be a tense day at the Kansas Statehouse Monday as 38 school districts ask the state for more money on top of the block grants they received for this school year.

The districts are asking for Extraordinary Needs Funding, money set aside by the Legislature when it dumped the previous school funding formula for the block grant scheme. The $12.3 million pool is for districts who claim an extraordinary increase in enrollment or plummeting real estate values.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas State Finance Council, chaired by Gov. Sam Brownback and dominated by Republican legislative leaders, is playing hardball with school districts seeking extraordinary funding.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

When the State Finance Council meets next week, it's going to have some tough decisions to make. Kansas has $12.3 million in Extraordinary Needs Funds available but school districts are asking for almost $15.1 million.

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