Topeka House Republican leaders Monday introduced a school finance plan that they said would provide $129 million to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court order to provide equalizing funds to help poor districts.
"It's a starting point," said House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg. He said the House Appropriations Committee would probably start considering House Bill 2774 Tuesday afternoon.
The measure would also make numerous policy changes in the operation of public schools.
For example, it would loosen standards for teacher licensing; increase the number of innovation districts that can operate outside of some state rules for schools; and establish a student performance commission appointed by the Legislature and governor.
The bill does not include a provision to expand charter schools, which some House Republicans had sought last week.
GOP leaders said the $129 million would include new funds and transfers of current budget revenues.
"The mix is still in flux," Vickrey said.
Earlier Monday, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, criticized Republicans for trying to link school finance with other policy issues.
"This is a no-brainer of sorts," Davis said. "There is a simple solution here and that is to pass the bill that I introduced that would fund the $129 million, and do it as a clean bill. That's what the court wants us to do."
On March 7, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that said cuts the Legislature has made since 2009 in aid to poor school districts were unconstitutional because they created wealth-based disparities. It ordered the Legislature to restore those funds, about $129 million, or find some other way to make funding equitable.
The court also remanded back to the lower court the larger question of whether overall funding for public schools is unconstitutionally inadequate. The lower court previously ruled that it is, and it ordered the Legislature to increase base state aid to schools by about $450 million.
On the Senate side, a deal to resolve equity issues in the school finance system seemed far away.
"There are just so many different, conflicting conversations going on, and with different members," said Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, who chairs the Senate budget committee. "I just don't feel like we're in a position yet."
Masterson said he hopes the committee can produce a bill by the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for April 4.
"I don't believe we can come to a full conclusion of what the response should be (by that date), but we should have some position," he said.