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Kan. governor pleased with initial schools meeting

Published on -11/26/2013, 7:27 AM

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By JOHN MILBURN

Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday's meeting with legislators and a small group of school superintendents laid the foundation for future dialogue on public education.

Brownback met for more than an hour in his office with House and Senate Republican leaders, superintendents and the president of the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The governor convened the gathering to start what he hopes is a conversation about academic performance and avoiding future lawsuits over state funding for schools. He said more meetings were expected.

"We've got excellent K-12 schools in Kansas," Brownback said following the meeting. "We'll have more meetings to move the discussion forward.

"I think people can see eye to eye."

He said Kansas has been involved in school finance litigation for more than 40 years, a cycle that he would like to see end and disputes solved in the Statehouse. The Kansas Supreme Court heard an appeal of the latest lawsuit in October, a challenge filed by school districts over cuts made in state education spending since 2008. A ruling anticipated in early 2014, but the court hasn't signaled how soon it may issue an opinion.

Frank Henderson Jr., president of the Kansas Association of School Boards and member of the Topeka Seaman school board, said Brownback and legislative leaders at the meeting wanted to hear from school officials to get their input.

"I really believe it opens the door to some excellent dialogue," Henderson said.

Superintendents said they found Monday's meeting productive and that all parties, which included House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle, shared the goal of doing what's best for the state's 450,000 public school students.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Abrams, a former school board member in Arkansas City and State Board of Education member, said few specifics were discussed but that all shared the goal of maximizing student academic performance with the resources available.

"One thing we all agreed on was we've got great schools and we spend a lot of money," said Abrams, a Republican.

Abrams said he would continue to seek changes in the school finance formula, not because of the $3 billion in state revenues spent annually, but out of a need to target those funds to reflect the needs of students to be successful after high school graduation. He cited a 2012 program that put more focus and resources on technical education programs as an example.

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