Stephen Koranda

Stephen is the statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

T_martin 33, flickr Creative Commons

An ordinance in Wichita that lowers penalties for marijuana possession is headed before the Kansas Supreme Court Thursday.

Kansas lawmakers will be studying problems with a state software system. A committee will be meeting next month to start collecting information about the issues. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, Kansas has spent $14 million on the program.

The system is behind the public website for the Kansas Legislature and connects all the various departments and staff in the Statehouse. It’s also used for drafting and distributing bills and amendments.

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A legal fight in Kansas over funding for the courts is attracting national headlines and attention from advocacy groups outside the state. At issue is a law that changes the way chief judges are selected. A later budget bill was tied to the law.

As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, that means if the judicial selection law is struck down, the Kansas court system’s funding is also eliminated.

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Scores from a new state assessment of Kansas students were released last week. Even though the tests are brand new, there could be changes in the coming years. The goal of the new, more rigorous exams is to better judge what students know and if they’re on track to succeed in college or a career.

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Secretary of State Kris Kobach is planning to unveil his office’s first charges of voter fraud soon.

Lawmakers last session gave Kobach’s office the power to prosecute voter fraud. Kobach said in a recent interview that it will have to be soon, because some possible violations his office is investigating occurred during the 2010 election.

Stephen Koranda

New state tests for Kansas students are garnering praise but also raising some concerns. Scores released this week show most Kansas 10th graders likely won’t be ready for college without some remedial coursework.

The Kansas Association of School Boards supports use of the new tests because they set higher goals for students than in the past. Mark Tallman, with the KASB, says not every student may want to go to college. For those kids who want to attend a university, this can help them determine if they’re on the right track.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

New test scores released today show only a quarter of Kansas 10th graders have the math skills needed to be ready for college or a career after graduation. Around a third of 10th graders were shown to have English skills that place them on the college track.

The goal of the new tests is to better judge if students will be ready for college or a job after high school. Board of Education Chairman Jim McNiece says this year's scores may not be as high as some people had hoped, but board members chose to set high goals for the state's students.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Results from new state tests for Kansas students will likely be released this week. The Kansas State Board of Education will consider the results later today.

Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander says the new tests are different and more difficult than old exams. He says setting the bar higher means scores could come in lower than some people might expect.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas recently issued $1 billion in bonds and gave the money raised to the state’s pension plan to invest. This all took place right around the time the stock market started to show signs of a downturn.

However, KPERS Executive Director Alan Conroy isn’t worried. He doesn’t believe recent market losses will have a long-term impact on the investments.

“As a large, institutional investor that’s in for the long haul, that 50-year outlook, there’s going to be lots of ups and downs over 50 years. We’re not day traders,” Conroy says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Friday highlighted changes made in recent years to strengthen KPERS, the pension plan for state and local employees. But the governor had little to say when asked if he’d push for further reforms.

Brownback has supported moving the state from a pension to a 401(k)-style plan, where workers are responsible for managing their own retirement investments. When asked if that's still his preference, Brownback would only say that he is reviewing the matter.