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UPDATE: Kansas Legislature Passes School Funding Plan; Governor Says He'll Sign It

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka (Photo by Dan Skinner)

Here's the latest from the Kansas Legislative Special Session on School Finance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —

9 p.m.

Kansas legislators have ended their special session after passing an education funding plan aimed at satisfying a court mandate and averting a threat that the state's public schools might shut down. The Senate adjourned at about 8:20 tonight (FRI) and the House followed about 30 minutes later. Republican Governor Sam Brownback called the GOP-dominated Legislature into session to respond to a state Supreme Court order last month. The court said the state's education funding system remained unfair to poor school districts despite three revisions of school finance laws in the past three years. The justices had warned that schools would not be able to reopen after this month if lawmakers didn't make more changes. The governor and lawmakers expect the plan to satisfy the court.

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8:40 p.m.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback says the Kansas Legislature has done a "fantastic job" in passing a school funding plan to satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate and end the threat that schools might not open. Brownback told reporters he will sign the bill that lawmakers passed overwhelmingly earlier tonight (FRI). It increases aid to poor school districts by $38 million by diverting money from other parts of the budget to schools. An attorney for four school districts suing the state said the plan solved issues identified the Supreme Court in a ruling last month. The court said the education funding system remained unfair to poor districts and warned that schools might not be able to reopen after June 30. Brownback said: "I will sign it, and this will be finished."

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8:15 p.m.

Kansas legislators have passed an education funding plan from Republican leaders that boosts aid to poor school districts to satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate and end a threat that the state's public schools might not reopen next month. The plan approved increases aid to poor school districts by $38 million for 2016-17 by diverting money from other parts of state government. The votes were 116-6 in the House and 38-1 in the Senate, sending the plan to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. He is expected to sign it. Legislators had a two-day special session to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling last month that the education funding system remained unfair to poor districts. The justices warned that schools would be unable to reopen after June 30 without changes.

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7:15 p.m.

The Kansas House has approved an education funding plan from Republican leaders that would boost aid to poor school districts to satisfy a state Supreme Court mandate and end a threat that the state's public schools might not reopen next month. The vote was 116-6 on a bill that would increase aid to poor school districts by $38 million for 2016-17 by diverting money from other parts of state government. A Senate vote also was expected soon. Its approval would send the bill to the governor. Legislators had a two-day special session to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling last month that the education funding system remained unfair to poor districts. The justices warned that schools would be unable to reopen after June 30 without changes. 
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6:50 p.m.

A new school funding plan from top Republicans in the Kansas Legislature has been endorsed by an attorney representing four school districts suing the state. Lawyer John Robb said Friday that the plan "solves the problem" of complying with a state Supreme Court order last month to make education funding fairer for poor school districts. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the plan Friday night. Robb said that if they approve the plan and Governor Sam Brownback signs their bill, "We should be good to go." Legislators are in the second day of a special session called to respond to the Supreme Court's order. Robb said that if the plan is enacted, the four school districts and the state will send a joint statement to the court endorsing it.

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6 p.m.

Fewer Kansas school districts would lose some of the aid they've already been promised for 2016-17 under Republican legislative leaders' new school funding plan than under a previous plan. That's because the new plan fashioned today (FRI) relies less on reshuffling existing education dollars to boost aid for poor school districts. A spreadsheet from legislative researchers shows that 77 of the state's 286 school districts would lose some of their aid. Another 169 would gain funding, while 40 would see no change. GOP leaders' first plan would have decreased aid to 141 districts and increased it for 145. Under the new plan, the Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission districts in Johnson County would lose a total of $3.9 million, but that's less than under the previous plan.

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5:45 p.m.

A Kansas school superintendent whose district is suing the state over education funding has endorsed a new plan from Republican leaders for complying with a recent state Supreme Court order. Kansas City, Kansas, Superintendent Cynthia Lane said today (FRI) that she's pleased with the plan. Both chambers of the Legislature hoped to vote on the new plan Friday night and end a special session called to respond to the court's order last month to make education funding fairer to poor school districts. The plan boosts aid to poor districts by $38 million for 2016-17. It finances the extra aid largely by diverting funds from other parts of the state budget, but wealthy districts do lose some state aid.  The Kansas City district and three others sued the state in 2010.

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(The conversation below has been superseded by new events at the Kansas Legislature)

Still no solution to school funding problems in Topeka. State lawmakers continue to search for an education funding plan that will comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order and avert the closing of public schools. KPR's J. Schafer spoke with Kansas Statehouse reporters Stephen Koranda and Jim McLean to get the latest from today's (FRI) House and Senate chambers.


That Jim McLean, with the KHI News Service, and KPR's own Stephen Koranda. Both of them have been following activities in the Kansas Statehouse during the special legislative session. They were speaking with KPR's J. Schafer.

 

Kansas Lawmakers Still Searching for Answer to School Funding Puzzle

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