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. 

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The Kansas Board of Education decided not to vote on Tuesday for a motion condemning new federal guidelines for transgender students. The federal rules say transgender students should be allowed to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Kansas Board of Ed member Ken Willard calls the policies “federal overreach.” The motion would have requested lawmakers and the governor take action to fight the guidelines. Willard says he generally opposes federal rules trumping local control, but he specifically mentioned the transgender guidelines.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas will have tighter welfare rules for cash assistance after Governor Sam Brownback signed some new restrictions into law. The changes will reduce the total amount of time Kansans can take part in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The limit for Kansas families receiving benefits will go down from 36 months to 24 months. The state can grant another year of benefits under certain hardships. Brownback says the goal is getting people off assistance programs and instead into the workforce.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Gov. Sam Brownback has until later this week to take action on a budget passed by Kansas lawmakers. It’s likely he’ll sign it into law, but as KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, there will be some budget cutting associated with the new spending plan.

Kansas lawmakers approved a budget that isn’t balanced, with the assumption that the governor will make millions of dollars in spending cuts. The state Constitution says there must be enough revenue to cover expenses. Brownback says he can make budget cuts before signing the bill into law to comply with that.

Storem, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed into law a bill allowing many public employees to carry concealed weapons when they’re traveling on the job. The change means employees for cities, counties and government agencies can now carry guns when they’re working out in the community.

During debate earlier this month, Republican Sen. Forrest Knox said this allows workers to protect themselves.

“You should not, if you’re a public entity, a public employer, be able to require your employees to be defenseless,” Knox says.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Update from the AP:

The Obama administration is telling public schools that they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The directive is in formal guidance being sent to school districts Friday by the departments of Education and Justice.

The letter does not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say the guidance is meant to clarify school districts’ obligations to provide students with nondiscriminatory environments.

Stephen Koranda

Gov. Sam Brownback is considering a budget plan that requires him to make spending cuts. Brownback says he has not yet decided if he’ll veto a provision in the budget affecting the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the budget item says spending cuts should hit those schools harder than other universities.

alamosbasement, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas Supreme Court justices are mulling how to respond in a lawsuit over school funding. Justices previously said they could close schools if funding disparities among districts aren’t reduced. But as Stephen Koranda reports, an attorney yesterday offered an alternative option.

An attorney representing the state, Stephen McAllister, says if justices rule against the state they could strike down just part of the Kansas school funding system and let classes start in the fall.

Stephen Koranda, File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Supreme Court justices had some pointed questions for an attorney representing the state in a lawsuit over school funding. At issue is whether lawmakers have done enough to reduce funding disparities among school districts.

Justice Dan Biles expressed frustration that lawsuits over education funding have been going on for years and the latest solution from lawmakers appears to be just a one-year solution.

“How many years do we operate unconstitutionally before we say the music’s got to stop and we got to quit dancing?” Biles said.

kac.org

An influential advocacy group based in Topeka is getting a new leader. Annie McKay is taking over as president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children.

She replaces Shannon Cotsoradis, who's leaving KAC for a job with the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative.

McKay praised the agency and Cotsoradis for their accomplishments, which included stopping the state from selling off part of a tobacco settlement used to pay for children’s programs.

Chris, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a lawsuit over school funding. At issue is whether lawmakers have done enough to reduce funding disparities among school districts. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, a ruling against the state will likely bring lawmakers back to Topeka for more work.

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