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Kansas Supreme Court

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

The incident Julie Burkhart remembers most clearly about the 1991 Summer of Mercy is the man who attached himself to the front gate of a Wichita abortion clinic using a U-lock.

Burkhart was a college student working at one of the three abortion clinics open in Wichita at the time. Today, she runs the one of two clinics left in the city.

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In 2015, a woman donned a clown mask and slipped into a Dollar General Store in Wichita just before closing time.

In the final moments of the robbery that eventually got her three years in prison, she did something that could complicate her life for many more years to come.

She flashed a stun gun, stuffed the $3,400 in her coveralls and fled.

Wichita Public School teachers are receiving a more than a 3.5 percent increase in salary. In Topeka, the increase is nearly 8 percent, that district's largest in 26 years.

School districts across Kansas are raising salaries, restoring cut positions and adding new jobs.

Portraits of George and Martha Washington as they appeared on a early 20th century postcard.
Boston Public Library

Segment 1: Kansas Supreme Court rules new school funding plan lacks sufficient money but gives legislature another year to eliminate shortfall.

In order to avoid school shutdowns, the Kansas Legislature recently added $522 million to the education budget over the next five years. Still, critics argue this will not be enough and more needs to be added for inflation. Today, we looked at this latest development in the longstanding Gannon case and its implications for the future of public education in the state.

On Monday, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively said the state’s public schools could open in the fall. Yet the same decision left local district officials on Tuesday and beyond with continued, long-term uncertainty.

The high court’s decision could lead to continued fighting over school funding and the topic will likely serve as political fodder in state elections.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Kansas continues to underfund its schools, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Monday — a decision that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars more over the next four years.

But because the Legislature agreed to significant hikes in funding this spring, the justices gave it another year to add to the amount it sends to local school districts.

The high court could have forced lawmakers back to Topeka in coming weeks to fix the problem or face school closures, something the state’s lawyers begged it not to do.

File photo/Kansas News Service

Kansas teachers have lost their second attempt to get tenure back for thousands of educators through the courts — but say they will continue their battle at the Legislature.

“So this is a disappointment,” teachers union spokesman Marcus Baltzell said of the decision handed down by the Kansas Supreme Court Friday. “But it's just one step."

Friday’s decision from the state’s highest court was unanimous.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of Justin Thurber. Yet the justices delayed a decision on his death sentence and said a lower court must reconsider whether he has a developmental disability.

A jury sentenced Thurber to death for the 2007 killing of 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm, a college student in Cowley County.

Kansas has some of the highest education achievement standards in the country, but students are struggling to reach that high bar.

The new report from the National Center For Education Statistics standardized state proficiency assessments for math and reading in 2015. For eighth grade, Kansas had the highest benchmark for proficiency in both reading and math out of the states evaluated.

Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

If districts suing the state get their way, the Kansas Legislature could be back in Topeka within weeks to add another half a billion dollars to school budgets in time for the coming academic year.

The districts hope the Kansas Supreme Court will also tell the state to phase in hundreds of millions beyond that in the years to come.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated)  

The ink is barely dry on a deal to increase school spending by more than half a billion dollars, but Kansas is already headed for a fresh round of legal arguments.

School districts suing the state say the plan falls short in part because it will happen gradually over five years. They want the Kansas Supreme Court to make the state pay out $506 million more this fiscal year — on top of the $190 million boost the Legislature had already promised.

photo illustration / Kansas News Service

Gov. Jeff Colyer has what he wanted — a bill to make sure schools get a funding increase of more than half a billion dollars is headed to his desk.

But senators who took the final vote Monday weren’t too happy about what they passed. Across party lines, some were already predicting an emergency legislative session in their near future.

Colyer praised lawmakers for finishing a second school finance bill this session to correct an $80 million error in the first.

“I look forward to signing this,” he said in a statement.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas senators will return Monday to find a school finance fix waiting on their desks, hammered out in the House over the weekend.

The bill undoes an $80 million error inserted last-minute into this year’s school funding bill.

“The overwhelming majority of our body wanted to make sure those funds were allowed to be given to the districts,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman said after the measure passed 92 to 27.  “It’s in the Senate’s hands now.”

file photo / Kansas News Service

Changes in federal tax law could actually cost some Kansans more in state taxes.

Kansas lawmakers might turn down that revenue windfall and add an election year tax cut instead. A bill they’re backing would cost roughly the same amount as a court-triggered boost to school spending.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers voted last weekend to increase public school funding over the next half decade — the latest chapter in a long and winding court battle.

            Five things about Kansas’ school finance fight

The story is far from over. Here’s what’s ahead in the coming weeks and months, and where it could all spin out of control.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to fix a costly mistake in the school finance bill passed after midnight on the last day of the regular session.

“It needs to be taken care of,” Colyer said Wednesday. “We’ll work with the Legislature on doing that.”

The error — a byproduct of confusion and deal-making in the session’s final hours early Sunday morning —makes re-engineering the state’s school finance formula more difficult than usual.

After months and months of debate, it’s finally happened. The Kansas Legislature has passed a school funding plan. Now, the questions are whether lawmakers can fix a mistake in the plan and, once fixed, whether it increases funding enough to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

Joe Gratz / Creative Commons-Flickr

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:05 p.m. to add a statement from the Shawnee County District Attorney.  

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday threw out the first-degree murder convictions of a woman accused of killing her ex-husband and his fiancée, ruling the prosecutor had engaged in prejudicial misconduct.

In 2012, a Shawnee County jury convicted Dana L. Chandler for the killings of Mike Sisco and Karen Harkness a decade earlier. Both victims were shot at least five times in a bed at Harkness’ Topeka home.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

Arm wrestling over a final deal on Kansas school spending begins in earnest Friday after the Senate settled on a figure that’s much lower than the House’s position.

The bill squeaked through after hours of discussion, winning the last vote necessary only after leaders forced lawmakers who initially abstained to weigh in.

Earlier, with the bill’s fate unclear, Republican leaders in the Senate issued stern direction to members of their party. Some were called into a closed-door meeting with Senate President Susan Wagle.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

A push to elbow the judiciary out of school spending by rewording the Kansas Constitution cleared a legislative committee Wednesday.

Yet the effort likely won’t get a full House vote this week and could be doomed on a roll call.

It’ll need two-thirds support in both the House and Senate, something that may prove even harder after Democrats and moderate Republicans swept up more seats in the 2016 elections.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas House has had its say on school finance — putting the ball in the Senate’s court. But Senate leaders say they won’t move forward on increasing K-12 funding to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court without a deal to prevent schools from suing again in the future.

 

The message from Senate President Susan Wagle and Republican Leader Jim Denning was loud and clear Tuesday: Kansas must amend the state constitution to put an end to the cycle of litigation over school funding.

 

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: With deadline looming, Kansas lawmakers struggle to find funding plan that satisfies the state's legislature and supreme court.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A report commissioned by the Kansas Legislature made clear just how much it might cost to improve student outcomes at public schools.

It’s so expensive, says a new lobbying group, that it threatens the quality of Kansas roads, health care and other government functions.

That fledgling outfit wants to amend the state constitution, freeing lawmakers to dodge steep hikes in school spending. External experts argue that added money would be needed to fulfill promises to graduate high school students better prepared for college or the workplace.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

Getting most Kansas schoolchildren doing well enough in math and reading to stay on track for college could cost an extra $2 billion a year — or roughly half what the state already spends on aid to local schools.

The figure comes from a report released Friday that lawmakers commissioned to help them judge the costs of getting better classroom results and to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Even before releasing their results, consultants hired to guide Kansas lawmakers to a school funding plan that meets legal muster endured a grilling on Friday.

How, wondered lawmakers, would the consultants reach their conclusions on how much money school districts need to help students succeed academically? Why do the consultants seem to be excluding the overhead, non-classroom expenses of running schools from their study? And what about criticism of work they’d done in other states?

file photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Supreme Court could soon decide whether there’s a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Gov. Jeff Colyer wants lawmakers to consider amending the constitution to establish that such a right doesn’t exist.

In his first address to lawmakers this week, the Republican governor called for amending the state constitution to help protect Kansas abortion restrictions.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Tuesday suggested the Legislature let the public have a say on the state’s constitutional duty to pay for public education, but he steered clear of criticizing the Kansas Supreme Court’s rulings on the topic.

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Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are facing an even tighter deadline to pass a new school finance law this session, after an attorney for the state encouraged them to finish their work on the topic less than two months into the coming 2018 legislative session.

Asked Monday by lawmakers what legal staff need to help make the state’s case, Arthur Chalmers urged them to aim for the start of March for handing off a new school finance bill rather than sometime closer to the date the Kansas Supreme Court set for filing the state’s arguments.

Charlie Riedel-Archive Photo / Associated Press

In the summer of 2005, the Legislature butted heads with the Kansas Supreme Court over a ruling that ordered an influx of money to public education.

The result? Kansas came closer than ever to a constitutional crisis.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers began groundwork Monday for their response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to fix school finance by this spring. The same day, a Hiawatha senator announced he will seek to curb the court’s powers through a constitutional amendment.

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