Republican lawmakers narrowly passed an education funding plan Thursday in the Kansas Senate, overcoming bipartisan skepticism that it would increase spending enough on public schools to satisfy a court mandate.
The vote was 21-18 on a bill that would phase in a $274 million increase in school funding over five years, targeting some of the dollars to early childhood education to ensure that fewer children fall behind early.
Republicans hold a 30-seat majority in the 40-member Senate but were split. Some conservatives were upset with the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling in October that the state’s current education funding of more than $4 billion a year isn’t sufficient under the state constitution, even with increases approved last year. Some GOP moderates questioned whether the plan was big enough, and the chamber’s nine Democrats and one independent member opposed it.
Senate GOP leaders sold some fellow Republicans on voting for the bill to keep lawmakers moving toward meeting the court’s mandate. The justices gave the attorney general until April 30 to report on how legislators fixed the problems the court identified.
The House has approved a plan to phase in a roughly $520 million increase in education funding over five years, and Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer publicly endorsed it Wednesday. The final version of a plan would be drafted by negotiators for the two chambers.