House gives final approval to block grant bill; possible reconsideration vote Monday

By Kansas Association of School Boards
March 13, 2015

The Kansas House on Friday approved repealing the school finance formula in favor of a so-called block grant plan, but a last second vote switch could set the stage for another showdown on the bill on Monday.

The measure, endorsed by Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders, was approved 64-57.

But before final action, state Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, switched from a `No' vote to a `Yes' vote. Under House rules, since Boldra was on the winning side, she could seek a reconsideration of the vote on Monday.

If that motion were to pass, opponents of the bill would then try to defeat the measure.

Because of the close margin, opponents of the bill hope they can, over the weekend, communicate with their legislators as they return to their districts.

Here is a link to the bill and here is a link to Friday’s vote.

On Friday, the bill was stuck on 62 votes — one less than necessary to pass — with five members absent.

The House was then locked down for approximately two hours, while supporters of the bill looked for absent members who would vote for the bill.

Then Reps. Rob Bruchman, R-Leawood, and James Todd, R-Overland Park, returned to the chamber and voted for the bill. Another legislator switched to `No' and then with the bill at 63 votes, Boldra made her move.

While there was a call of the House, state Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, who supports the bill was summoned from his district, but he didn’t make it back before Bruchman and Todd cast the deciding votes.

If the bill clears the House, many say the Senate will simply concur with the bill which would send it to Brownback.

Supporters of the bill said the current school finance system is too complicated and unpredictable and that a two-year block grant would provide stability and give school districts flexibility on how to use their funds while a permanent plan was devised.

But opponents of the bill said it provided inadequate levels of funding, especially to low-wealth school districts. They said appropriations in the bill weren’t guaranteed. They also complained that the bill, unveiled last week, was being accelerated through the Legislature without the proper amount of scrutiny.

State Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, said an error in the bill puts the state on the hook for paying for virtual school students who are not Kansas residents. He asked what other “surprises” were in the bil