Though a recent study urged lawmakers to pump at least $400 million into Kansas schools, State Education Commissioner Bob Corkins said Wednesday he'll ask for only $150 million.
Whether the lesser amount will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court remains to be seen.
Corkins said he hoped it would.
"There is no criteria by which to judge success in meeting the court's expectations," he said, addressing a noon University Forum meeting at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave. "That's part of the problem."
He added, "The amount we've recommended this year would be consistent with the multiyear approach suggested by the governor and others."
Alan Rupe, an attorney representing the school districts that sued the state, disagreed.
The $150 million, he said, "falls way, way short of what will satisfy the plaintiffs in the case and, more importantly, the court."
The lawsuit, he said, is driven by a pair of recent studies that found Kansas schools were underfunded by between $499 million and $568 million.
"Those are the goal posts we're dealing with," Rupe said. "What Mr. Corkins is proposing is a ball that won't stay on the tee."
But Corkins asked the 50 people at the University Forum - a mix of university retirees and students - to look at positives within the $150 million rather than dwell on the inadequacies.
Almost half the additional funding, if spent as he proposes, would be used to underwrite all-day kindergarten, he said. School districts would receive an additional $98 per pupil.
The $150 million proposal, he said, was developed and approved by the Kansas State Board of Education.
Responding to questions from the audience, Corkins:
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
¢ Defended his qualifications, noting his law degree required as much time and study as a doctoral degree in education. Corkins had neither taught nor held an administrative position in a school before being named commissioner.
Since taking office in October, Corkins said he's not felt like he was in over his head.
¢ Defended the debate over whether to require students to "opt in" to taking sex education classes, rather than allowing them to "opt out."
"I think (opting in) will increase parental involvement - and the more parental involvement you have, the better," he said.
Whether the change would affect student behavior, he said, "is an open question."
¢ Warned that recent changes in the state's science standards have been misunderstood.
"There is nothing in the standards that promotes the teaching of creationism, intelligent design or any other alternative theory," Corkins said. "What the standards do is ask the science teachers to point out to students the criticisms of evolution whenever science is not backed as fact."
Evolution, he said, is clearly "the most well-researched and prevailing theory we have, but you don't teach it as fact when it isn't - you try to stimulate critical thinking skills on the part of the students."
Austin Turney, a former Lawrence school board member, bristled at Corkins' defense of the science standards.
"(Kansas University) Chancellor (Robert) Hemenway has said the theory of evolution is the underpinning of all the biological sciences," he said. "What (Corkins is) saying: 'raise doubts and move on.' I'm not sure that's useful at all."
Before taking questions, Corkins spent several minutes praising the state's move toward "growth modeling," a teaching approach that analyzes each student's success rather than lumping them in groups.
Turney didn't buy that, either.
"The premise that underlies 'growth modeling' is a reduction of class sizes," he said. "I don't see the money coming in to do that."
Neither did Corkins' remarks impress Kathy Cook, executive director for Kansas Families United for Public Education.
"It's was the same old run-around," she said. "Outside of all-day kindergarten, we didn't hear concrete ideas for improving student achievement."