Sam Zeff

EDUCATION REPORTER

Sam covers education for KCUR. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.

Sam began his career at KANU in Lawrence. He hosted Morning Edition at WHYY in Philadelphia where he also covered organized crime, politics and government corruption.

The Overland Park, Kansas native has won a National News and Documentary Emmy for investigative reporting, four Edward R. Murrow awards and four National Headliner Awards. Sam was assistant news director at the ABC station in the Twin Cities, executive producer at the NBC station in St. Louis and executive producer of special projects at the CBS stations in Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Sam was educated at the University of Kansas.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The Kansas House debated a new school finance plan for five hours Wednesday, taking up two dozen amendments and finally voting 81-40 to advance a bill not much different from the one that had come out of committee. The measure is slated to get a final vote in the House Thursday. Then it will be the Senate’s turn.

alamosbasement / flickr Creative Commons

As Kansas lawmakers try to hammer out a new school funding plan, one state senator says she has a way to save money: Stop educating kids from other states.

Most don’t know it, but this year Kansas is paying to educate 624 students from bordering states.

The state Department of Education estimates that costs Kansas taxpayers about $3.5 million a year.

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Republican from Louisburg, says Kansans shouldn’t be paying for this.

Kansas News Service/File photo

Kansas legislative leaders working on a plan to end the 2017 session have what amounts to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

File Photo / KCUR

Gov. Sam Brownback’s approval rating among Kansans continues to flounder and ranks lower than that of President Donald Trump, according to the spring Kansas Speaks survey released Tuesday.

The survey, published twice a year by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University, found that Brownback has an approval rating of 21 percent, while 56 percent said they are “very dissatisfied” with him. The very dissatisfied number is down from the 62 percent the governor received a year ago.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A divided K-12 Budget Committee passed out a school funding plan for Kansas schools that essentially nobody likes.

J. Schafer / KPR/File photo

When Kansas lawmakers started this legislative session in January, most agreed that comity was back, partnerships would be forged and work would get done.

That was then, and this is now.

A trio of challenges remain as the Legislature on Sunday passed the 90-day mark in its session: a budget, a tax plan and a school funding formula.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Another long committee hearing, another day without a Kansas school finance bill.

The committee chairman, Rep. Larry Campbell from Olathe, kept saying all week the panel would kick out a school funding plan by Friday.

It didn’t happen.

After spending most of the afternoon on two amendments, Campbell adjourned the committee and moved its deadline to Monday.

The committee did approve an amendment that puts more money into at-risk student funding, a contentious issue that passed by one vote.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature isn’t close to coming up with a school funding formula.

However, lawmakers are working on a bill that looks a lot like the formula they scrapped in 2015 for block grants.

That bill, and the struggle this session to write it, is not just back to the future, but back 25 years to the future. That’s when another school funding suit bogged down the session.

EducateKansas.org

Kansas' new plan to recruit more teachers kicked off Tuesday with a series of YouTube videos.

Kansas has been struggling with keeping veteran teachers and luring students into teacher prep programs.

Related: Kansas Is Becoming A Hard Place To Teach, So Teachers Are Crossing The State Line

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Educators and some lawmakers weren’t sure which Jeff King they were going to hear from Thursday.

Would the House K-12 Budget Committee hear from the conservative former Senate vice president who pushed through block grants and tried to defund the courts? Or would they hear from a constitutional lawyer with experience litigating school finance cases in Kansas?

Turns out, it was the latter.

“I don’t think there’s anything he said that really threatens where the bill is going,” said Mark Tallman, the top lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

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