UPDATE: Kansas school funding deal sits in the hands of the Senate

TOPEKA (CAPITOL BUREAU) – The Kansas House narrowly passed a new school funding plan Saturday. The plan now goes to the Senate for a “yes”or “no” vote. 


School funding talks stalled Friday night after House leaders said the Senate would not budge from its position. 


“We’re trying to figure out what we can accept and what’s a reasonable offer. We’re not negotiating with just the House and the Senate, we’re also trying to make sure we comply with the Court,” said House K-12 education budget chairman State Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka. 


In October, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state was not properly paying for schools and gave lawmakers an April 30th deadline to come up with a solution. 


Earlier in the week, the House and Senate passed vastly different versions of a school funding bill. The House’s plan phases in about $520 million to schools over five years. The Senate’s plan phases in about $274 million over five years. 


The Senate’s plan also includes programs targeting student achievement and early childhood education. 


On Saturday morning, House Speakers Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said he had reached an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park. 


“Sen. Denning and I sat down for a quite a while and hashed over where we thought we could end up. We realized we probably couldn’t get anything out of conference that either chamber had a chance to vote on,” Ryckman told reporters.


The agreement reached would take the Senate’s school funding bill and add the House’s $520 million investment. 


“The bill we’re using is the one the Senate sent over, our chairman has an amendment that puts much more content of the House’s bill in it and we’ll see what happens from there,” Ryckman said. 


Governor Jeff Colyer issued a statement Saturday calling on lawmakers to pass a plan before the end of the day. 


“I call on the legislature to pass a 5-year $500 million school finance plan before they leave Topeka today. With strong fiscal leadership, $500 million is affordable and sustainable without a tax increase on Kansas families. The plan must also address the equity deficiencies cited by the Kansas Supreme Court and target specific improvements in student achievement.”

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