The Latest: Democrat loses temper in Kansas schools debate
Mar. 24, 2016
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on the Kansas Legislature's debate on school funding (all times local):
The top Democrat in the Kansas House has lost his temper during the chamber's debate on a school funding plan, yelling and pointing at a Republican member who suggested Democrats never offered proposals of their own.
House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City's unusually intense outburst came as he was responding Thursday to comments from Republican Rep. John Whitmer of Wichita. Burroughs angrily accused Republicans of not supporting schools and said Democrats supported education and schools.
Burroughs pointed in Whitmer's direction and denounced the Republican as an "ideologist" and "politician." Republican leaders immediately sprung to their feet to calm Burroughs down as fellow GOP members shouted, "Whoa!" and "No!"
They interrupted Burroughs. He apologized for his breach of decorum but insisted, "I will stand for children."
Kansas legislators have sent Gov. Sam Brownback an education funding plan designed to meet a state Supreme Court order to help poor districts and prevent the justices from shutting down public schools in July.
The House approved the bill Thursday on a 93-31 vote. The Senate approved the bill hours earlier on a 32-5 vote.
The bill redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts. Total spending on schools would not increase, but no district would lose any of the aid it was promised for the next school year.
The court ruled last month that poor districts weren't getting their fair share of the aid. The justices gave lawmakers until June 30 to fix the problems or face having schools shut down.
The Kansas House is debating whether a Republican education funding plan will satisfy the state Supreme Court enough to avoid having the justices shut down the state's public schools in July.
The bill under consideration Thursday would redistribute $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts. Republicans argue that it complies with a Supreme Court order last month to boost aid to poor districts.
The court gave lawmakers until June 30 to respond or face having schools shut down.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Ryckman Jr. says the measure will keep schools open. The Olathe Republican helped draft it.
Democrats say the plan won't fly with the court. Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita says GOP lawmakers are "playing Russian Roulette with our schools."
A school funding bill being debated by the Kansas Legislature began last month as a measure to require a memorial on the Statehouse grounds to the laying of the building's cornerstone in 1866.
Republicans used the bill as a vehicle to expedite consideration of the school funding plan Thursday.
The memorial bill was introduced and passed the House last month.
In the Senate, it sat in the Ways and Means Committee until Wednesday, when its GOP members stripped out the contents and substituted the school funding plan. The committee then approved the substitute bill.
The Senate approved the school funding plan Thursday.
The House then debated whether to accept the Senate's substitute in an up-or-down vote with no amendments allowed. If the House accepts the Senate plan, the bill goes to the governor.
The Republican-dominated Kansas Senate has approved a GOP school funding bill that would avoid an increase in state spending while trying to meet a state Supreme Court order to help poor school districts.
The vote Thursday was 32-5.
The measure goes next to the House. GOP leaders there hoped to take a vote on it later Thursday.
The bill was drafted this week and redistributes about $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts. It guarantees that no district loses any aid already promised for the 2016-17 school year.
The court ruled last month that the state is shorting poor districts on their fair share of state aid and threatened to shut down schools statewide if the problems aren't fixed by June 30.
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce says there are many ways to meet a Kansas Supreme Court order to help poor school districts and his chamber is focusing on making the distribution of education funds fairer.
The Nickerson Republican defended a GOP school funding plan during a debate Thursday in his chamber.
The measure redistributes $83 million of the $4 billion-plus in annual aid to the state's 286 school districts. The court ruled last month that the state shorted poor districts on their fair share of the aid.
The plan does not boost overall state spending. Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said the state needs to provide additional dollars.
But Bruce said the court order does not require an increase in overall state spending.
The Kansas Senate is debating whether it is moving too quickly in considering a school funding plan drafted by Republican legislators.
The Senate was debating a bill Thursday that would avoid an increase in state spending while attempting to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order last month to help poor school districts.
The measure redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts. No district would lose any aid it was promised for the 2016-17 school districts.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said the chamber is likely to pass flawed legislation.
Republicans like budget committee Chairman Ty Masterson of Andover said lawmakers must move quickly because the court threatened to shut down schools statewide if lawmakers didn't fix the problems.
A lawyer representing four school districts suing the state over education funding is predicting that the Kansas Supreme Court will reject a school finance plan top Republican lawmakers hope to pass.
Newton attorney John Robb said the plan up for debate Thursday in the Senate doesn't really change anything for poor districts.
The measure redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts in an effort to comply with a Supreme Court order last month to help poor school districts. But the plan guarantees that no district loses any aid for the next school year and doesn't boost overall state spending.
Robb represents the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas school districts. They sued the state in 2010.
Top Republican lawmakers hope to pass a school funding plan that would avoid an increase in state spending while attempting to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court order to help poor school districts.
The Senate planned to debate a bill Thursday that redistributes about $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid to its 286 school districts.
If the measure passes the GOP-dominated Senate, the Republican-controlled House was expected to schedule a vote later Thursday.
The measure shifts some of the $83 million to poor districts but also guarantees that no district sees a reduction in the aid it's been promised for the next school year.
The court threatened in last month's ruling to shut down public schools statewide if lawmakers did not fix the problems by June 30.