school funding

The Kansas Board of Education has approved more than $7 million in additional funding for 34 school districts, but there’s a catch. As Stephen Koranda reports, the money might never materialize.

The block grant funding system in Kansas doesn’t take into account things like student enrollment growth, but it lets officials like Basehor-Linwood Superintendent David Howard ask for more money to cover new students.

“This isn’t just teachers. We’re actually having to add bus routes and equip new classrooms. That’s part of that total request,” Howard said.

Schools around Kansas are just a couple of weeks from opening for the new school year, but about three dozen districts say they need more state aid and have applied for extraordinary needs funding.

In all, 37 districts are asking for about $8.4 million from the state Board of Education. There is about $15 million in the pool. All districts contribute a small portion of their state aid to the pool.

Two of the biggest requests come from the two of the smaller districts in this area: Spring Hill in Johnson County and Basehor-Linwood in Leavenworth County. 

Stephen Koranda, File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Supreme Court has set arguments for September in an ongoing lawsuit over school funding. At issue is whether the state is spending enough on schools.

Republican leaders in the Legislature call the timing of the arguments political, because they’ll take place not long before the fall election. House Speaker Ray Merrick says it’s an effort to direct attention away from retention elections for the justices.

“The timing of the scheduled arguments yet again demonstrates the court’s desperate political motivations,” Merrick says.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

To say that many educators in Kansas are fed up with state lawmakers would be an understatement. The state Legislature has been putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on public schools in recent years, and this election season, educators are trying to send legislators packing.

Christopher Sessums / flickr Creative Commons

Kansas lawmakers avoided a legal fight shutting down schools at the beginning of this month. Legislators adjusted the budget to comply with a Supreme Court ruling. But as statehouse reporter Stephen Koranda reports, there’s more legal wrangling ahead in a lawsuit over school funding.

Wichita Public Schools

Updated: Kansas schools will be able to keep their doors open and the threat of a potential statewide shutdown is over. The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that a bill passed by lawmakers last Friday and signed by Governor Sam Brownback on Monday, fixes inequities in school funding between rich and poor districts.

Now, the court will move on to the larger question of whether the Legislature is providing adequate funding to schools, which officials say could involve hundreds of millions of dollars. A date for those arguments has not been set.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Much of the credit for keeping Kansas schools open is going to Fairway Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker and other moderates who put forward a plan that didn’t reduce school aid.

Stephen Koranda

Updated June 27, 2016: Gov. Sam Brownback signed Substitute for House Bill 2001, which aims to satisfy a mandate from the Kansas Supreme Court to correct inequities in school funding. The bill increases state funding for poor districts by $38 million for the 2016-17 school year by diverting funds from other parts of the budget as well as redistributes funds from wealthier districts. Brownback says that signing the bill ensures that Kansas schools will remain open.

“I appreciate the hard work of legislators which began prior to the start of the session in a series of meetings," Brownback said in a press release. "The effort to bring together legislators, educators and attorneys resulted in a bill supported by all parties and a stipulation by plaintiff’s attorney that House Bill 2001 satisfies the equity portion of this litigation."

Brownback also congratulated House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle for "an efficient and focused special session."

Chris, flickr Creative Commons

A new plan to fund public schools got a big boost today when some districts that stand to lose money said they would support the proposal.

Several wealthy districts in Johnson County will lose overall funding, which will go to assist poorer school districts. Todd White, superintendent of Blue Valley Schools, says they’re willing to compromise and accept the bill in order to keep schools from closing.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio/File Photo

A school funding plan has been making fast progress in the Kansas Legislature, passing out of both House and Senate committees today.

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