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Topic: School Funding Formula

Dale Dennis, Kansas

Interview of Dale Dennis, August 28, 2020

Interviewed by Andy Tompkins
People interested in the development of education policy in Kansas will find no better resource than this 2020 oral history interview with Dale Dennis, Deputy Commissioner of Education. This interview was conducted by Dr. Andy Tompkins, a former Kansas Commissioner of Education. During the interview, Dennis speaks candidly about policy development, indicating the issues and the legislators who were intrinsically involved. The interview covers the 1972 lawsuit which was the first dealing with issues of equity in school funding. Twenty years later, the 1992 school finance lawsuit again challenged the lack of equalization which rendered the formula unconstitutional. The process Show Moreby which the Legislature, Governor Joan Finney, Speaker Marvin Barkis, and others went about addressing the Court's concerns is explained in detail. By 2000 the Legislature had again failed to fund the school finance formula fully and the Montoy lawsuit arose. There was another case in 2010 (Gannon); this time the problem was the adequacy of the funding to meet constitutional requirements. Moving on from school finance lawsuits, the interview covers school consolidation and related issues of local control. Dennis explains why he started offering budget workshops to school administrators, including the development of software and the use of computers. This interview includes a brief discussion of the 1999-2000 legislation that moved state oversight of community colleges and technical schools (later termed technical colleges) from the Kansas Department of Education to the Kansas Board of Regents. Show Less
Dave Kerr, Kansas

Interview of Dave Kerr, August 23, 2019

Interviewed by Dale Goter
In a 2019 oral history interview Dave Kerr recalls nearly 20 years in the Kansas Senate including his terms as Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and President of the Senate. His tenure in the senate spanned the period when state resources were directed toward economic development, an effort he thought was much needed. Kerr also recalls the revamping of the public education funding formula in 1992 and reorganization of governance and oversight of postsecondary education. He observes that key characteristics of a leader are willingness to listen to various points of view and endure the Show More"slings and arrows" of leadership. Show Less
Janis Lee, Kansas

Interview of Janis Lee, October 14, 2019

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
Former State Senator Janis Lee's 2019 oral history interview covered her 22 years in the Kansas Senate as well as several years on the Kansas Court of Tax Appeals (formerly the Board of Tax Appeals and later returned to that name). The interview covers many topics, including how she campaigned in a rural district that increased in area over those 22 years, driving as much as 45,000 miles in an election year. Lee developed expertise in tax issues that was important to the agriculture community and in funding rural schools. Water supply was an important issue in her district, Show Moreas was adapting federal regulations so they would work in rural communities. She witnessed the shift to a more conservative legislature and more anti-abortion legislation. Funding for schools dominated most sessions. Show Less
Speaker Doug Mays

Interview of Doug Mays, September 25, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
This interview with former Speaker Doug Mays contains good insight into how the Kansas House of Representatives functioned at the end of the Twentieth Century and the first decade of the Twenty-First. The institution was changing as its membership became more conservative. Mays describes in great detail how its leadership dealt with controversial issues such as school finance and taxation. Mays cites two issues as his proudest accomplishments: passing a sales tax to lower property taxes for Washburn University and neighborhood revitalization legislation. Speaker Mays notes that every time a bill came through, he read Show Moreit. His discussion of the power of the speaker is illustrated with numerous examples. “ I believed in the process. I believed that the speaker was the keeper, the protector of the process.” He promoted civility in the body and developed a good relationship with the Minority Leader Dennis McKinney which allowed him to end the 2005 Special Session without adjourning sine die. Mays promoted greater use of technology for the legislature and tightening of deadlines to ensure smooth operations. There are several examples of his relationship with governors. Anyone interested in being a speaker should read this interview. Show Less
Joan Wagnon, Kansas

Interview of Joan Wagnon, May 11, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Ed Flentje's interview of former Representative Joan Wagnon is lengthy and complete, covering her 12 years in the state legislature, 4 years as Mayor of Topeka, and 8 years as Secretary of Revenue. She talks about the work of the House Taxation Committee in implementing legislation after passage of a constitutional amendment classifying property for tax purposes. Wagnon discusses the 1992 school finance lawsuit which produced massive change in the school funding formula, including how the concepts were developed and what strategies were used to get them passed. The interview covers in detail how the House Democrats interacted with Show MoreGovernor Finney in the 1991 session, when Finney vetoed the major tax bill and the Supreme Court found the school finance formula to be unconstitutional. Wagnon served as facilitator for the Children's Initiatives Committee which Speaker Marvin Barkis chaired. That committee produced fourteen bills that affected children and families. Economic development issues are discussed in the last part of the interview which links Wagnon's legislative interests to her work as Mayor of Topeka: neighborhood revitalization, spreading the tax base from city to county for Washburn University and the library, and developing economic development infrastructure to attract growth and new business for Topeka. She also discusses some of her eight years as Secretary of Revenue, particularly her involvement with the Streamlined Sales Tax. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less

Interview of Eugene Anderson, April 21, 2022

Interviewed by Frances Jackson
Senator Anderson's interview covers his 20 year career in Kansas politics, serving in both House and Senate and later, in the administration of Governor Joan Finney and as a Wichita business man and author. Anderson describes growing up in Georgia and the values he learned in his segregated community - work hard, never quit, build relationships and make your community better. His issue when he went to the legislature was making the schools better. Anderson describes his friendship with Governor Joan Finney, going back to when she was State Treasurer and how he asked her not to Show Moreinvest in the apartheid government in South Africa. Later, she appointed him Director of Aviation and he was able to work with other state directors to support the Kansas aviation industry on product liability legislation. Throughout the interview Anderson reveals his philosophy of effective governance. Show Less
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