school funding | KCUR

school funding

A bill that scraps the school funding system in Kansas has passed the Legislature and is heading to the governor’s desk for consideration. The Senate voted 25-14 to concur with a bill that had previously passed the Kansas House. It would temporarily create a block grant system while lawmakers write a new funding formula.

Supporters of the bill say it has $300 million in new funding and gives Kansas schools more flexibility. Republican Senate President Susan Wagle says the bill lets them start over and ditches a school funding formula she calls “broken.”

A bill that would replace the school funding formula in Kansas with block grants has been speeding through the legislative process. It could stay on the fast track this week and could be on the governor’s desk in mere days.

The bill passed the House on a tight vote just over a week after it was introduced. Republican Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce says the Senate could move to simply agree to the House bill as soon as Monday. That would skip sending the bill through the normal committee process in the Senate, but Bruce says a motion to concur isn’t out of the ordinary

The Kansas House has voted to scrap the current school funding system in Kansas and replace it with block grants for two years. That would give legislators time to craft a new formula.

There was a contentious debate Thursday and the bill won initial approval on a 64-58 vote.

Republican Rep. Ron Ryckman admits change isn’t easy, but he says the plan will give Kansas school districts more local control over how they spend their dollars.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Educators say they’re more concerned than ever about legislation that would drastically change the way Kansas schools are funded.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican leaders in the Legislature want to scrap the current school funding formula. They say it’s too complicated.

While that formula is rewritten, they want to temporarily fund schools through block grants.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday issued an order that may speed up the appeals process in the ongoing court battle over school funding in the state.

In December a three-judge panel of Shawnee County District Court ruled that the state's school funding formula is constitutional but underfunded. 

While the panel did not say how much more money is needed, it suggested it could be as much as $522 million.

Senate Bill 71 is currently before the Ways and Means Committee of the Kansas Senate.  If it becomes law, it could immediately force school districts to rework their current budgets. Steve Kraske and guests examine the bill.  

Guests:

Sam Zeff / KCUR

When they’re not talking about how to fund education in the Kansas Statehouse, they’re talking about how to change it. How to improve it. How to get better results with the same money.

Six school districts across the state are now rolling out something that may do all of that.

The school districts in Concordia, Marysville, McPherson, Blue Valley, Hugoton and Kansas City, Kan., are all part of something called the Coalition of Innovative School Districts and they all want, among other things, to license teachers differently. In a way, they say, that works best for them.

A committee in the Kansas House has advanced a plan to balance the current fiscal year’s budget. The bill transfers money from sources like the state highway fund, and makes other changes, to help fill a budget hole. But lawmakers decided not to take as much as originally planned from a fund for kids’ programs.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

A bill in the Kansas Senate would reduce the amount of state aid to most school districts in Kansas in the current fiscal year.

The measure is what educators in Kansas feared the most — a bill that would force districts to cut their budgets before the current fiscal year ends in July.

The measure would cut state aid for Local Option Budgets, that portion of school budgets raised through local property tax.

The state provides money to help equalize those taxes between wealthy and low-income districts.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The watch word for school funding in Kansas is now block grants. But how that will work remains a mystery to educators.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to scrap the current per pupil funding formula which, he says, is complicated and inefficient.

While lawmakers try to write a new formula, Brownback proposes to give school districts lump sum payments over the next two fiscal years equal to about what they receive now.

Across the state, that’s $3 billion in aid to local school districts.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Charles and David Koch are well known for funding political campaigns, but the Kochs also donate tens of millions of dollars to colleges and universities.

Nothing unusual about wealthy people giving to higher education, but some professors warn that Koch funding can come with conditions that threaten academic freedom, and that has sparked a debate about the influence of big donors in an age of diminishing public university funding.

Nine-by-nine

Andy Marso / KHI News Service

This week some very dire budget predictions came out of Topeka: In the next two years Kansas may come up $1 billion short of expenses.

But that’s in the future. Right now the state has to find $279 million.

When budget experts gathered Monday, school districts all across Kansas were watching closely.

They knew if the projected budget shortfall for the rest of this fiscal year was bad, they faced potential cuts in state funding.

Not next year but this year — money already budgeted would be lost.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Most of the attention this election season has focused on the big Kansas state races — the governor’s seat and U.S. Senate. The latest polls put Democratic and independent candidates within striking distance of Republican incumbents, something that’s almost unheard of in this deep-red state.

In some parts of Kansas, Democrats are hoping to capitalize on discontent with incumbents at the top of the ticket and pick up a few more statehouse seats. Which brings us to the moderate District 25 in northeast Johnson County.

city-data

We all knew education was going to be an important issue in the race for Kansas governor.

But in the last three weeks of the campaign it just might turn out to 'the' issue.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, have charged each other with dastardly education deeds for weeks.

At a news conference last month in Topeka, Davis accused the governor of cutting education funding.

“All we’ve gotten from Gov. Brownback on education is deep cuts and failed leadership," he said.

city-data

There are two big issues in the race for Kansas governor this year: How to fund education and how to grow the economy.

Republican incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback is standing firm on cutting taxes to boost the economy.

Brownback has cut income taxes for individuals and eliminated them for small businesses. He says this will spur business development and thus the economy will grow.

But House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Davis has a very different idea.

Davis says he will drive economic growth by spending more on education.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Everyone knew education was going to be an issue in the race for Kansas governor.

In debates and TV commercials, Republican incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback says he’s increased spending on public schools. His Democratic challenger, House Minority leader Paul Davis from Lawrence, claims Brownback has cut funding.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

If you wandered into the St. Joseph, Missouri School District convocation a couple of weeks ago you would probably think everything in the district is just fine.

The 2,000 faculty and staff jammed into the Civic Center downtown were loud and seemed primed for the start of the 2014-2015 school year. But everyone in the arena that morning knew the district was in serious trouble.

Since April the FBI, a federal grand jury in Kansas City and the Missouri State Auditor have all been investigating the district of 11,000 students.

Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, continues to push public schools as the cornerstone of his campaign.

At a stop in Topeka, Davis claimed a second term for Republican Gov. Sam Brownback could mean cuts to public schools.

Davis, speaking at an elementary school, pointed to a report from the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department. It shows the state facing a more than $200 million budget deficit in 2016. Davis says the tax cuts pushed by Brownback will lead to the deficit, which will in turn, lead to funding cuts for education.

A commission will be working over the coming months to look for possible ways Kansas schools could more efficiently use tax dollars.

The group is made up of former lawmakers, education officials and members of advocacy groups like the Kansas Policy Institute. Those factions don't always see eye-to-eye on education issues.

The group elected former advertising executive and Wichita Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sam Williams to head the commission. He says he'll be working to get everyone on the same page.

A Kansas school efficiency commission created by the Legislature met for the first time Friday. It was formed to find ways for schools to more efficiently use taxpayer money while improving the quality of education.

The group chose retired advertising executive and former Wichita Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sam Williams to head the commission.

"I think my opportunity is to help us get to the position where the entire state of Kansas can be comfortable with the recommendations we're going to make," says Williams.

Wikimedia Commons / Harvard Business School

It's a struggle today for college students to pay their tuition. As costs continue to rise, states are backing away from funding higher education. Steve Kraske talks with the co-author of a recent report on this very problem. They look at why lawmakers in so many states are turning their backs on helping students get their degrees.

Learn More: Find out who pays for public higher education, the state or the student.

Dignitaries applaud as Governor Sam Brownback signs a bill lowering employers' unemloyment insurance costs.
Steve Bell

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was in kansas City, Kansas Tuesday for the official signing of a bill that substantially reduces the percentage rate employers are required to pay into the state's Unemployment Trust Fund.

Brownback used the occasion to tout what he called a call, growing Kansas economy.

"People have said you can't cut taxes, create a business-friendly environment and fund state government," he said, adding, "Well, yes you can, and we are."

After the ceremony, the governor also commented on several bills on or soon coming to his desk.

Attorneys for the group that sued Kansas over school funding have issued a statement critical of the plan the Legislature sent to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Sunday.

Attorney John Robb expressed concerns that the plan shifts money from some programs for at-risk students, allows more well-to-do districts to increase local funding, and reduces revenues that could go for schools by offering tax credits for private school scholarships.

The Kansas House has passed an education spending bill on a bipartisan 91-31 vote. The measure includes around $100 million in additional education funding. The bill would create an education study committee and would change teacher certification rules.

"This is a very good combination of strong policy that will help our schools use money efficiently or give us ideas. And it's a strong policy in meeting the court's test that they want us to equalize our funding here in the state," says Rep. Marvin Kleeb, a Republican from Overland Park.

The Kansas Senate has advanced a plan to respond to a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding.

The court said lawmakers created inequalities between school districts by cutting certain types of education funds. The bill would shift money into funds aimed at reducing those disparities. Dollars would be moved from school transportation as well as other areas of the budget.

Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said they are prioritizing spending.

The Kansas House Appropriations Committee will start hearings Monday on a budget bill to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling over education funding. But it looks like the issues in the bill will stretch beyond just school spending.

The budget bill before the committee includes other policy items like rewriting teacher licensure rules. Chairman Marc Rhoades, a Newton Republican, told committee members last week about the broad scope of the discussion.

Work on education funding bills continues in the Kansas Statehouse. The legislation is being considered in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that said there are unconstitutional funding disparities between school districts.

Lawmakers are expected to start work this week on a solution, but committee work Monday was delayed.

Republican Sen. Ty Masterson from Andover  says they're not yet in a position to begin work on a proposal.

This week, a Kansas House committee could consider a bill to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding. It comes after the process got off to a rocky start last week.

The bill would increase money for certain education funds that are aimed at reducing disparities between districts. But the bill includes other education policy changes, and the lawmaker who introduced it included an expansion of charter schools in the proposal.

It's not clear how lawmakers will comply with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that says the state has created inequalities between schools districts. The ruling says lawmakers violated the Kansas Constitution by cutting funds that help equalize school district budgets.

The group that filed that lawsuit, and some lawmakers, say they believe the solution is to restore more than $100 million in education funds.

Analyzing The Kansas School Funding Ruling

Mar 7, 2014
MyTudut / Flickr-CC

This morning, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a lower court will deal with what it called unconstitutional inadequate funding for the state's K-12 schools.

On Friday's Up to Date, we take a look at what the 110-page ruling will mean for school funding, how the lower court might handle the the details and how all this affects this fall's race for the governor's office.

Guests:

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