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. 

Pesky Librarians, flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers have amended a bill that could have forced many libraries in Kansas to cut back on services or close altogether.

The idea behind the bill is to require certain types of property tax increases to be approved by voters or local governments. But the proposal would have devastated the funding stream for the state’s regional library systems.

Heather Braum is with the Northeast Kansas Library System, which could have lost nearly half its funding.

Stephen Koranda

Kansas Senate Committee Advances School Funding Proposal

A Kansas Senate committee has advanced a plan to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling on school funding. The court says disparities between districts must be reduced by this summer or justices could close Kansas schools.

The Senate plan doesn’t add any new money for Kansas schools, it simply shuffles funding around. That means some districts get more money and some lose out. Republican Senator Ty Masterson says he doesn’t like the plan much, but he believes it complies with the court ruling.

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The Kansas House says BB gun shooting clubs should be allowed on public school property. The bill comes after the Derby School District closed down a BB gun club over safety concerns. Republican Representative Blake Carpenter, from Derby, says the bill gives students another option for activities.

“I would like for this this sport to be treated like all the other sports that our kids play today in high school or middle school athletics. Its injury rate is far less than football, basketball, baseball,” Carpenter says.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There’s been talk around the Statehouse that Kansas may try to privatize state mental health hospitals. A member of the governor’s administration asked lawmakers on Wednesday to allow privatization talks to go forward.

The troubled Osawatomie State Hospital lost its federal certification recently and the funding that comes with it. There have been efforts underway to improve the facility. Secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, Tim Keck, says they want to consider all options, including proposals from outside organizations to privatize services.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A bill in a House committee would reinstate Kansas business taxes that were eliminated several years ago and then cut the sales tax rate on groceries.

Several business owners asked the Tax Committee to reinstate the income taxes they used to pay. Peggy Johnson retired from her financial advisor job just a few months ago. She says she saved money with the business tax cut, but didn’t create any new jobs.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas House has advanced a bill that supporters say protects religious organizations at colleges. Proponents of the so-called campus religious freedom bill say it protects student groups from being forced by universities to allow anyone to join.

Republican Rep. Joseph Scapa supports the bill.

“Religious Groups should be free to require their members and leaders to share the group’s faith. That’s the entire point of having the group,” Scapa says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A bill in a Kansas House committee could cause many public libraries to shut down or trim back their services. The idea behind the bill is to let voters have more input on property taxes and bonds issued by some government entities. But as KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the proposal would have some unintended consequences.

Stephen Koranda

Hundreds of education advocates rallied at the Kansas Statehouse Monday and urged lawmakers to boost spending on public schools.

Judith Deedy, with the group Game On for Kansas Schools, argues that many lawmakers aren’t hearing the concerns of parents. Deedy is asking lawmakers to stop legislation that she says targets teachers.

“Our requests are really quite simple. Listen to us. Base funding for schools upon need. Let the teachers do their job,” Deedy told the advocates gathered Monday.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers will start work this week on a response to a school funding ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court. The decision says there are disparities between school districts and if they aren't fixed by this summer the court could close Kansas schools.

There are plans in both the House and Senate to comply with the ruling, but as KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the proposals could cost some districts money.

Stephen Koranda, File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

A Kansas Senate committee is considering a bill that would require some school districts to spend down part of their savings accounts. If districts have reserves that are too large, this bill would force them to use some of the saved money.

Former Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal supports the bill. He told a committee that money sitting in district reserve funds isn’t doing students any good.

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