school funding | KCUR

school funding

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Class has just started for most students, but it’s already a tough year for Kansas schools.

Many districts have been struggling to make ends meet, laying off staff or raising property taxes. But for a few dozen districts, the situation is worse.

So some districts are asking for help from the state’s Extraordinary Needs Fund.

When you think of Olathe public schools, the phrase extraordinary needs doesn’t jump to mind.

New buildings, lots of green space, beautiful offices.

But, the district says, money is tight.

File Photo / KCUR

This just might be the most challenging year in Kansas education in a generation.

State funding, teachers leaving the state and hiring issues are plaguing districts across the state.

KT Kind / Flickr-CC

A persistent teacher shortage remains in Kansas, just two weeks before students start returning for the new school year. 

According to the state-run Kansas Education Employment Board, there were 466 open positions at Kansas schools as of Monday. Of the openings, 236 were for certified teachers. The other openings were for administrators, support staff and other positions. 

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says his administration will unveil $50 million in state budget cuts this week. The cuts are required as part of a bill passed in the Legislature this year.

When Kansas lawmakers were working to pass a final tax deal, they added a clause requiring the $50 million cut from the budget as a way to help get conservative Republicans on board. When asked last week if Kansas could cut another $50 million without layoffs or hurting state services, Brownback didn’t have much to say.

dcJohn / Flickr--CC

With the start of school less than three weeks away, thousands of Kansas public school teachers are without contracts for the coming year. But one major Johnson County district is getting close.

While Shawnee Mission, Olathe, and Kansas City, Kansas are all still in contract negotiations, Blue Valley officials say a "tentative proposed agreement" has been forwarded to the district's teachers for approval.

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

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in July 2015.    

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.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

As a tax plan continues to elude the Kansas House of Representatives, the state is preparing for severe budget cuts in case the Legislature can’t close a $400 million budget hole.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, wanted to know just how badly an across-the-board 6.2 percent budget cut would harm schools.

The answer from the Kansas State Department of Education: $197 million statewide.

Locally, Kansas City, Kansas, schools would lose the most, $10.8 million next year.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

As Kansas educators await a district court ruling on the constitutionality of block grant funding passed by the Legislature this session, one local school district says it will be forced to make deep cuts.

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 89.3

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.

alamosbasement / Flickr--CC

While Kansas schools are paying close attention to the state budget, they’re also tracking an ongoing court case that could drastically change the education funding picture in the state.

On the same day the new consensus revenue estimate for the next three years was released Monday, a three-judge panel in Shawnee County once again made it clear it was a player in school finance.

In an email sent to lawyers in the case, the panel reminded them that it will hear testimony at a May 7 hearing on all outstanding K-through-12 finance issues. That includes block grant legislation passed this session and how much the Legislature will spend on public schools.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There’s probably not an educator in Kansas who isn’t waking up this morning with a bit of queasiness.

Monday is the day of the consensus revenue estimate, an awful bureaucratic phrase that has far reaching, real-world effects.

Economists from state government and academia will lock themselves in a room in Topeka and they will look into the future.

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.

Rama / Wikimedia Commons

Updated Wednesday, 9:21 a.m.:

According to the Jackson County Election Board's unofficial results for Tuesday's municipal election, Independence's levy increase passed with 64 percent approval and Lee's Summit's bond issue passed with nearly 80 percent approval.

The original post begins here:

Cody Newill / KCUR

More than a dozen education activists are marching 60 miles from Merriam, Kansas to Topeka for the third year in a row to protest how the state funds public schools.

The walkers from Game On for Kansas Schools were greeted by hundreds of supporters in Lawrence Saturday. The group takes issue with the state legislature's decisions to fund schools through block grants and replace the old funding formula with an outcome based method.

Brad Wilson / Flickr-CC

Not 12 hours after Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation that would fund public schools in Kansas with block grants, the law has been challenged in court.

The motion was filed in Shawnee County District Court by several schools districts, including Kansas City, Kan., which have sued the state claiming it is under funding K-12 public education.

The motion alleges the block grant law violates the Kansas Constitution because it freezes funding for the next two years. A three-judge panel has ruled that the state failed to provide enough money to adequately educate students. 

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.

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