Kansas Supremes Tell Lawmakers Fix the School Plan or Risk Shutdown

February 12, 2016 - Leave a Response

The Kansas State Supreme Court is warning lawmakers to fix the flawed school finance plan or risk a school shutdown. 

The Court issue an opinion Thursday stating the state “failed to carry its burden” in making sure all Kansas school districts are treated equitably under the school finance plan.

 

The ruling says some property-rich school system are treated differently than school districts where property values are not as high.

 

The Court says result is the school funding plan is $54 million dollars short.

 

“The courts have said the state has not adequately or in this case, equitably. So, yes, we’re not surprised. It’s clearly what is right for us, and for all the students in the state of Kansas,” said David Smith of the Kansas City, Kansas School District.

 

The KCK district was one of four school systems who filed the lawsuit against the state.

 

The Supreme Court gave Kansas lawmakers until July 1 to fix the school finance program.

 

July 1 is when the new fiscal year starts for Kansas school districts.

 

The court opinion claims with a corrected school financing program the state would not have a legal means to pay for public schools.

 

The opinion bluntly warned it is up to the state legislature to address the issue–to the court’s satisfaction–or risk a school shutdown.

 

The opinion says it is up to lawmakers “whether Kansas students will be treated fairly and the school house doors will open to them in August”.

 

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said in a statement he will review the opinion closely.

 

Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick was angry. He accused the Court of trying to hold Kansas taxpayers and Kansas students “hostage”.

 

Merrick also thinks it was odd the Court handed it’s ruling down just hours before lawmakers passed a new budget. One that does not contain the extra $54 million the courts say schools need.

Budget Advances at Kansas Statehouse

February 12, 2016 - Leave a Response

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The Kansas Senate has approved a bill for balancing balance the next state budget. 

The vote Thursday night was 24-15. The measure eliminates a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the state’s $16.1 billion spending blueprint for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

 

The action came hours after the House approved its own budget-balancing plan, 68-56. Legislative leaders expect to appoint negotiators from each chamber to draft the final version.

 

The bill from each Republican-dominated chamber contains most of GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposals for juggling funds and capturing unanticipated savings. Both also accept Brownback’s proposal to raise $25 million from selling off the assets of state economic development agency.

 

Democrats in both chambers said the measures represented poor fiscal management. 

Missouri’s Schools on Track for Budget Boost

February 12, 2016 - Leave a Response

               (AP) – Missouri’s K-12 public schools would get about a $76 million increase in basic funding under the budget proposed by a House panel.

 

A House committee on Thursday scaled back a recommendation by Gov. Jay Nixon to increase funding by about $85 million.

 

Recommendations from both Nixon and the House panel still would leave schools underfunded in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

 

The Legislature would need to ramp up funding by more than $500 million to fully fund K-12 schools. 

Missouri Leaders Back Ferguson After DOJ Report

February 12, 2016 - Leave a Response

(AP) – Missouri’s top two elected officials credited Ferguson on Thursday with pressing ahead with policing and court reforms despite a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging that the St. Louis suburb routinely violated residents’ rights and misused law enforcement to generate revenue. 

The civil rights lawsuit, filed Wednesday, came a day after Ferguson essentially rejected a settlement agreement with the DOJ by adding seven amendments to a proposal reached after months of negotiations. The plan sought to vastly improve police and municipal court practices in Ferguson, the town where 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing.

 

During a visit to Kansas City, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon told reporters he was “heartened” by Ferguson leaders pledging to press ahead with reforms despite the lawsuit – “a far different attitude than was there two years ago,” he said, when administrators facing certain issues “swept them under the rug.”

 

“That attitude shift is really important and something that I think is a positive step,” Nixon said.

 

Nixon did not directly address an Associated Press question about the appropriateness of the Justice Department lawsuit, saying he was not involved in negotiations. But he said Ferguson had “a real concern” about the affordability of the Justice Department’s mandates: “They don’t want to sign something they don’t have the dollars to pay for.”

 

Meanwhile, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said in a statement that Ferguson leaders “are making a good-faith effort to adopt reforms to correct past problems. But the Justice Department demands would force the city to stop providing basic services to residents to pay for mandated wage hikes.”

 

Three Democratic members of the Missouri House, all from the St. Louis area, said in a statement that they are working on a proposal for an emergency loan fund to help Ferguson implement the reforms.

 

“If we can provide financial help in the form of a loan program, there is no reason for the city to hesitate in embracing the DOJ’s reforms,” Rep. Sharon Pace of St. Louis said.

 

But House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Republican from Poplar Bluff in southeast Missouri, said there is no budgeted money to bail out Ferguson, nor has there been a request from the governor to do so.

 

“This is a problem that I think Ferguson is going to have to figure out a way to work out,” Richardson said

Kander Calls Out Blunt Over Vietnam Student Deferments

February 10, 2016 - Leave a Response

The Viet Nam war has turned into a campaign issue in the 2016 Missouri senate race.
Democrat Jason Kander is calling on Republican incumbent Senator Roy Blunt to explain his actions surrounding his draft status in the late 1960’s.
‘I don’t sit in judgment of anyone who chose not serve in Vietnam,” Kander said, “ but hiding three deferments and saying you couldn’t remember them is completely inexcusable.”
Wednesday, the Kansas City Star reported Blunt’s office told the Star that Blunt was never called up to military service. His office says Blunt’s lottery number in 1969, the first year of the draft lottery was in the high 300’s, so he was never called.
His office also told the Star Blunt’s status was 1A, making him eligible to be drafted.
The Star’s report says Blunt has never mentioned that he was classified as 2S. That means Blunt had a student deferment since his was in college at the time. Many draft age students had a similar status while in school at that time.
Blunt office says “poor memories and difficult to obtain records may have led to the misstatement to the Star”, according to the report.

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