School finance bill passes House

While the Legislature returns to session on Saturday, April 5, to finish its work, including work on school finance, some progress was made on Friday night.

The House passed a bill Friday that was a compromise endorsed by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Democrat.

The bipartisan effort on Senate Bill 218 passed 91-31. Rep. Broderick Henderson and Rep. Valdenia Winn, Democrats from the Wyandotte County delegation, voted against it.

“The school finance bill that passed the Kansas House today (Friday) with bipartisan support increases funding to Kansas schools by $83 million and includes $74 million of property tax relief,” Gov Brownback said in a statement. “I am pleased with the broad bipartisan support for a plan that puts money into the classrooms where it best benefits students and teachers.

The bill as passed made cuts to programs that assist students older than 19 and students who are part-time.  Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from the Wichita area, said that even though he voted for the bill he was disappointed in the elimination of the at-risk services for these students, and he hoped that the conference committee would restore these funds.

“Poor urban school districts spend a great many resources keeping at risk students in school. Many of these students have to work. These students take an untraditional route to graduation but they do graduate. The finance formula should not punish districts that help these kids,” he said in a statement in the House.

The House also changed its plan to dip into retirement funds from the schools to pay for school finance, and also restored proceeds from the sale of Rainbow Mental Health facility in Kansas City, Kan., to mental health services. Instead, funding for school finance is coming from the state’s general fund.

The Kansas National Education Associated stated that it had opposed a change to licensure that would “lower the standards for teacher licensure in Kansas” and had opposed the expansion of the “innovative district” program. Those provisions were left in the version the House passed.

The House and Senate will work on their differences in the bill in a conference committee.

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