Stephen Koranda

Contributing Reporter

Stephen Koranda reports on the Kansas Legislature, state government and everything else for Kansas Public Radio. He previously worked in Mississippi and Iowa, where he covered stories ranging from hurricanes to state executions. 

Stephen Koranda, File Photo

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has made it official. He has signed an order saying Kansas lawmakers will return to Topeka on Thursday, June 23, for a special session on education funding issues.

The Kansas Supreme Court says funding inequalities among school districts have to be reduced or schools will close after the end of the month. Brownback made it clear he doesn’t agree with the ruling, but he wants to avoid schools closing, so he said lawmakers might add more money to comply.

Stephen Koranda file photo

Update via AP Wednesday, 10:06 a.m.: Gov. Sam Brownback is preparing to set the date for a special session of the Kansas Legislature on school funding.

The Republican governor plans to sign a proclamation Wednesday afternoon formally calling the GOP-dominated Legislature into special session.

He wants lawmakers to respond to a state Supreme Court order last month declaring that public schools won't be able to open after June 30 if legislators don't rewrite school finance laws.

The court rejected some changes made earlier this year in how Kansas distributes more than $4 billion a year in aid to its 286 local school districts.

The justices said education funding remains unfair to poor districts. Many Republicans have strongly criticized the ruling, and some have wanted to defy the court.

Lawmakers adjourned their annual session June 1.

Original story:

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he will call state lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session to work on school funding issues. In a statement, Brownback said he made the decision after consulting with legislative leaders.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Updated Tuesday, 11:09 a.m.: Gov. Sam Brownback announced on his website that he is calling for a special session "to keep Kansas schools open, despite the Court’s threat to close them."

Kansas Democratic lawmakers are pushing their fellow legislators to call a special session to work on school funding. Generally, only the governor calls a special session, but state law says a petition from two-thirds of lawmakers can force the governor to make that call.


The Kansas Senate has approved a resolution condemning federal guidelines on transgender bathroom use.

The federal rules say transgender students should be able to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The resolution says those rules hurt student privacy and safety.

Republican Sen. Steve Fitzgerald says federal government officials are forcing their view on transgender issues onto the states.

Stephen Koranda

The final day of the Kansas legislative session is often nothing more than a formality--but this year, a legal fight over school funding forced Kansas lawmakers to meet and consider how to respond.

Stephen Koranda file photo

Kansas lawmakers return to Topeka Wednesday for what was supposed to be the last day of the legislative session. However, the state Supreme Court ruled late Friday that lawmakers haven’t done enough to reduce funding disparities among school districts. That means there’s likely more work ahead for the Legislature.

Lawmakers shuffled school spending to reduce disparities, but the court says that didn’t fix the issue and in some ways made it worse. Justices say they’ll close Kansas schools if there isn’t a solution by the end of June.

Axelboldt/Wikipedia public domain

Kansas lawmakers are slated to take up the issue of transgender bathroom use next week.

Republican Senate President Susan Wagle says she’s drafting a resolution opposing a federal directive. It says schools should allow transgender students to use bathroom and locker room facilities that match their gender identity.

Gov. Sam Brownback is also criticizing the directive, calling it an example of federal overreach. He says federal funding for other school programs might be cut off or reduced if schools won't comply.

Bill Kast, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Highway Patrol is preparing for its largest training class ever. This summer, 45 recruits will begin training to become state troopers. Superintendent Mark Bruce says the Highway Patrol has been struggling with a shortage of troopers.

The patrol developed a new salary structure and a recruiting system to help attract more applicants, but lacked the money to pay for new recruits. Bruce says a new $2 fee on vehicle registrations approved by lawmakers now makes it possible to hire more troopers.

Hillary / flickr Creative Commons

A deadline is looming for Kansas voters who want to change political parties in time for the August primary election.

State law says voters can’t switch party affiliation for the primary after June 1. This is only the second election affected by the new party registration deadline.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew says some voters were caught unaware two years ago.

“We had a number of people -especially in July because of the old registration deadline which happens in July- who were used to redeclaring a party and they couldn’t,” Shew says.

PHIL CAUTHON, KHI NEWS SERVICE

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback this week signed bills that prevent privatizing troubled state mental hospitals unless lawmakers approve. There have been staff shortages and other issues at the Larned and Osawatomie state hospitals.

Tim Keck, interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, has said in the past he wants to at least consider the option of privatizing state hospitals. This week, Brownback was asked by a reporter if privatizing the facilities is a long-term solution for the problems.

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