$500 million K-12 funding plan splits northeast Johnson County delegation

Members of the northeast Johnson County delegation found themselves on opposing sides Monday as the House took up a bill that would have added $500 million to annual spending on K-12 schools — a figure that Democrats suggested wouldn’t meet the minimum investment needed to satisfy the Supreme Court and that moderate Republicans said represented about as much as could be added without increasing taxes.

Though the first-round vote Monday afternoon on HB 2445 was not recorded, several local officials noted where they stood on the measure.

Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican who sits on the K-12 Education Budget committee, told the Wichita Eagle that she voted in favor of the bill, and said that while she supported the idea of adding more to K-12 funding, she had seen no proposals for where the funding would come from.

“I guess my frustration is that while I, too, would like to do more for schools, I have yet to see anyone suggest a willingness to provide an actual plan for how we do it,” Rooker told the paper.

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican, said she has supported the bill “in an effort to get things moving,” and noted that the legislators who had voted against it fell to her left and right on the ideological spectrum:

Democrats hung together in opposition to the initial bill, and attempted to add an amendment that would have injected an additional $295 million into K-12 schools to account for funding lost to inflation. That attempt failed.

Rep. Brett Parker, a Democrat and teacher in Olathe Public Schools, said he voted against the bill, and suggested he was looking for a plan that would meet the Supreme Court’s requirements:

Democrats’ insistence that the bill include funding above $500 million level appeared to frustrate Rep. Tom Cox, a first-term Republican from Lenexa:

A report from a consultant commissioned by Republican legislative leaders found that Kansas needed to add $600 million in K-12 funding just to maintain its current performance levels. To increase performance to goals envisioned by the Kansas State Department of Education, the state would need to invest an additional $1.8 to $2.1 billion.

In his State of the State speech in January, then-Gov. Sam Brownback called for an increase of $600 million for K-12 schools.

The House is expected to take up a revised version of the bill today. Clayton said she was on alert for amendments that would divert money for K-12 public schools to private institutions: