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 / KPR

A former Kansas House Speaker told state lawmakers to fight back against a court ruling over school funding. The state Supreme Court says lawmakers must reduce funding disparities among school districts or schools could close.

Former Republican Rep. Mike O’Neal didn’t tell Kansas legislators directly to defy the court, he said they should respond. But he said they could point to state law passed years ago saying the court can’t close schools.

https://www.kansasregents.org/index.cfm

Tuition costs for university students in Kansas will be going up in the fall. The Kansas Board of Regents has approved increases of up to 6 percent for undergraduate, in-state tuition.

The universities in Kansas say the increases are justified by state budget cuts, rising costs and the need to retain and attract staff. Board of Regents Chair Shane Bangerter has concerns about universities staying competitive in the state’s tough budget situation.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Thousands of people in Kansas have incomplete voter registrations, which means they haven’t been able to vote. They were caught up in the state’s requirement that some people provide citizenship documents when registering. Now, a federal appeals court says many of those people should be allowed to vote in federal elections.

Axelboldt/Wikipedia public domain

The Kansas State Board of Education has approved a motion that says federal transgender guidelines for schools remove local control.

The statement doesn’t say schools should defy the rules or ignore the needs of transgender students. Instead, it says Kansas schools have already been accommodating transgender students, and decisions on how to do that should be made by local districts, not the federal government.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo, flickr Creative Commons

Reuters is reporting that the Obama administration will not use an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Closing the facility could have an impact on Kansas.

An executive order may have been President Obama’s best chance to close the facility during his remaining time in office. Congress has taken steps to block the transfer of detainees to the U.S. mainland, so they seem unlikely to bargain with the president on the issue.

J. Stephen Conn, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas lawmakers may comply with a court ruling over school funding, but they could also take a swipe at the courts in the process.

Legislators want to avoid a school shutdown in a legal fight over school funding, but Gov. Sam Brownback and some other legislators aren’t happy with the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio/File Photo

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says lawmakers might add $38 million in education funding to comply with a court ruling that says school funding needs to be more equitable.

The Senate’s vice president, Republican Jeff King, says they may consider adding school aid for poorer districts to comply with the Supreme Court, but he expects there will also be other options in the mix.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas lawmakers will begin committee meetings next week in advance of a special session focused on school funding issues. The committees could discuss a constitutional amendment that would block the courts from shutting down schools during funding disputes.

The state is currently involved in a legal fight over school funding. The Kansas Supreme Court has said if it isn’t fixed by the end of the month, the funding system will be unconstitutional and schools could be closed.

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 / KPR/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.

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