TOPEKA — The House tweaked a newly minted school-finance law Saturday rather than approve a cluster of proposals expanding the new five-year, $525 million plan answering Kansas Supreme Court rulings that state aid to public education was constitutionally unsuitable.
Along the way, state representatives defeated amendments linked to teacher raises, special education, mental health and borrowing for school district construction.
House members voted 92-27 to send the Senate a bill affirming the Legislature's intent to authorize $67 million to $80 million in expenditures — the precise number was a moving target — tied to assessment of local property taxes for public schools. The bill would still mandate each district assess a minimum 15 percent local-option budget, or LOB, to support K-12 education.
"This is a compromise," said House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe. "We said we weren't going to leave until we fix schools."
Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka, said the House bill no longer included a controversial provision championed by conservatives stipulating revenue from the minimum LOB be used to artificially raise average state aid per pupil by about $500 in a bid to impress the Supreme Court.
Patton said deletion from Senate Bill 61 of the LOB accounting maneuver was the best strategy for securing the minimum 63 House votes and 21 Senate votes necessary to pass the fix.
"All it did was move money on paper," he said. "We still need 63 and 21, and I don't think there are 63 and 21 to support leaving that in there."
The flaw was included in the major school funding bill narrowly approved early this month by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Jeff Colyer. Republican and Democratic legislators and Colyer vowed to correct the miscue before the Supreme Court considered in May whether the latest expansion of state funding to K-12 schools met education standards reflected in the Kansas Constitution.
The Senate didn't require members to convene Saturday at the Capitol, leaving action on the school fix bill by the Senate for Monday. The 2018 legislative session is due to end next week.
During House floor debate on the school funding measure, Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village, was unsuccessful with an amendment adding about $175 million to state aid for school districts. That would bring the surge closer to $700 million at the close of the five-year period.
Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, denounced Democrats' attempt to raise annual spending on schools. The House's GOP majority should flex its partisan muscle and draw a line, she said.
"Who should be governing in this chamber? Republicans," Landwehr said. "Do we want to stick together as Republicans and actually govern?"
Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, proposed $49 million in state aid be earmarked for a 2.5 percent salary increase for all certified teachers in Kansas public schools. Her amendment was derailed on a procedural motion by Patton.
"We can provide the money, but we can't control where it goes," Williams said.
The House rejected an amendment by Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, to remove limitations on school district bonding for construction. She said the Manhattan district invested $100 million in building expansions during 2012, but that space has been consumed by an 800-student enrollment increase.
"The kids are elbow to elbow," Carlin said. "We cannot teach our kids adequately in overcrowded classrooms."
Rep. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, failed to advance an amendment expanding investment in special-education funding statewide by $6 million annually.
The House also rejected an amendment by Rep. Jarrod Ousley, D-Merriam, to allow the state Department of Education to broaden school districts eligible to participate in a pilot program to upgrade mental health services to students.