school funding

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As Kansas lawmakers try to hammer out a new school funding plan, one state senator says she has a way to save money: Stop educating kids from other states.

Most don’t know it, but this year Kansas is paying to educate 624 students from bordering states.

The state Department of Education estimates that costs Kansas taxpayers about $3.5 million a year.

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Republican from Louisburg, says Kansans shouldn’t be paying for this.

J. Schafer / Kansas Public Radio/File photo

Kansas Lawmakers aren’t yet in record territory, but they’re facing challenges that could make the 2017 session among the longest ever.

Lawmakers must close a budget gap that now stands just south of $1 billion -- and increase funding for public schools by enough to get them off the hook with the Kansas Supreme Court.

Big challenges, but particularly tough now for a couple of reasons: First is the mismatch between conservative Republican leaders and a majority coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats.

Kansas News Service/File photo

Kansas legislative leaders working on a plan to end the 2017 session have what amounts to a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

A divided K-12 Budget Committee passed out a school funding plan for Kansas schools that essentially nobody likes.

J. Schafer / KPR/File photo

When Kansas lawmakers started this legislative session in January, most agreed that comity was back, partnerships would be forged and work would get done.

That was then, and this is now.

A trio of challenges remain as the Legislature on Sunday passed the 90-day mark in its session: a budget, a tax plan and a school funding formula.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Another long committee hearing, another day without a Kansas school finance bill.

The committee chairman, Rep. Larry Campbell from Olathe, kept saying all week the panel would kick out a school funding plan by Friday.

It didn’t happen.

After spending most of the afternoon on two amendments, Campbell adjourned the committee and moved its deadline to Monday.

The committee did approve an amendment that puts more money into at-risk student funding, a contentious issue that passed by one vote.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the name and date of the Mock v. State of Kansas court case. The timeline of litigation and legislation has been clarified.

The Kansas Legislature isn’t close to coming up with a school funding formula.

However, lawmakers are working with a bill that looks a lot like the formula they scrapped in 2015 for block grants.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

An attorney advising the Legislature met with Senators Monday to discuss school funding issues. Lawmakers need to write a new funding formula before ending the session. Former Republican state Sen. Jeff King briefed lawmakers on what might satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

Lawmakers need to comply with the court, which says the current Kansas school funding system is inadequate. King said lawmakers could tie funding to some sort of index, like the inflation rate, so funding goes up over time.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

House and Senate leaders had told Kansas lawmakers to be ready to work over the weekend, but Friday they decided to head home, putting off tax and budget work until next week.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Educators and some lawmakers weren’t sure which Jeff King they were going to hear from Thursday.

Would the House K-12 Budget Committee hear from the conservative former Senate vice president who pushed through block grants and tried to defund the courts? Or would they hear from a constitutional lawyer with experience litigating school finance cases in Kansas?

Turns out, it was the latter.

“I don’t think there’s anything he said that really threatens where the bill is going,” said Mark Tallman, the top lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

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