Topeka The House tentatively approved a bill Thursday granting local school boards more authority and providing more state aid to districts with declining enrollments.
Members advanced the bill to final action on an 84-34 vote, despite a prediction from Education Committee Chairman Ralph Tanner, R-Baldwin, that more local control would spawn a "black hole of mischief."
The bill states that a local board "shall have the power to transact business for the efficient and effective use of district resources in a manner and upon such terms and conditions as the board deems to be in the best interest of the school district."
Current law requires that boards ask legislators for grants of specific powers, such as the authority to enter into agreements with other districts to provide services.
The local control provision was added to a bill making it easier for school districts to use contingency funds for general education purposes. Boards can use the funds only in emergencies with approval from the State Board of Education.
"We're still in control," said Rep. Larry Campbell, R-Olathe, who offered the provision. "The worst case scenario is if somebody does something crazy, we can stop it next year."
Opponents pointed out that school boards are supposed to be accountable to legislators. A similar bill passed the Senate earlier this year.
The declining enrollment amendment, approved 82-36, would provide extra state aid to school districts to compensate for loss of students from the previous year. The provision would cost the state an additional $17.7 million.
Kansas spends approximately $2.3 billion on elementary and secondary education each year. It allocates $3,870 per pupil.