Statehouse Live: Diverse opinions expected in school finance discussion; Life Sciences building named after Hemenway

? This should make for an interesting discussion.

As the state deals with budget cuts, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, has called a committee meeting for Monday and invited several speakers for an agenda item called “discussion on school finance issues.”

Scheduled to speak are Fred Kaufman, Gary French, Bob Corkins, Walt Chappell and Mark Tallman.

Fred Kaufman and Gary French are school superintendents. Kaufman heads the Hays school district, which has joined a coalition of nearly 60 districts called Schools for Fair Funding. The coalition is considering a lawsuit against the Legislature because of recent funding cuts to schools. French is the superintendent of the Osawatomie school district.

Corkins is a former state education commissioner, who had no public school experience when hired by conservatives on the State Board of Education. He left when moderates won back control of the board.

Walt Chappell is a freshman member of the State Board of Education who caused a stir last week when he said schools could handle budget cuts by drawing down on reserves and consolidating. Education Board Chairwoman Janet Waugh then issued a statement saying that Chappell’s opinions did not represent those of the board.

And Tallman represents the Kansas Association of School Boards, which is advocating that the state raise more revenue to adequately fund schools.

10:30 a.m.

The Life Sciences Innovation Center at the Kansas University Medical Center will now be known as the Robert E. Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center, named after the former KU chancellor.

The Kansas Board of Regents gave unanimous approval of naming the research facility this morning.

Current KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said Hemenway served the university “in an outstanding fashion for 14 years and was integrally involved in the development and construction of this building.” Hemenway stepped down from the chancellor’s post earlier this year.

The $57.2 million building opened in 2007. More than 300 people work there on 129 research projects with funding totaling $109 million.

The Hall Family Foundation contributed $27 million to equip the building as part of a $42 million commitment to the KU Endowment Association in 2001.

Gray-Little said donors did not want to name the building after themselves, but did support naming the building.

Regent Dan Lykins said it was an honor for him to vote “yes” on the proposal to name it after Hemenway.

“He was a great leader at KU and a very good friend to higher education,” Lykins said.