The Kansas House voted to approve legislation Thursday authorizing a $90 million increase in annual state aid to public education to comply with a court order to compensate districts for years of operational cost inflation.

The move set the stage for the Senate to send the K-12 legislation to Gov. Laura Kelly later Thursday evening. The Senate, which previously had approved the funding strategy, forwarded the bill on a 31-8 vote.

The compromise passed the House by a 76-47 margin. 

While the Senate's financing plan formed the foundation of the bill, the House inserted a collection of education policy provisions. Kelly, who supported the funding portion, met with House Democrats before they went to the floor to take up Senate Bill 16.

The Kansas Supreme Court is scheduled to review constitutionality of the new education funding law.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, voted against the bill and argued it would be impossible for state government to abide by financial promises to education without raising taxes and diverting money from other budget priorities.

"I love our schools as much as anyone in this room does," Ryckman said. "This is about whether we want to make promises to our kids that we can keep. Our school administrators and teachers have been distracted for over a decade by litigation and school funding fights. Make no mistake, the plan in front of us today will not give our schools the certainty they deserve. This is a promise that we cannot keep."

The overall spending blueprint was the bill's dominant feature, but the final product included policies tied to academic and financial transparency.

"I'm the queen of accountability. We must track every penny," said House Democratic negotiator Valdenia Winn, a representative from Kansas City, Kan. "There are four or five pieces of accountability, yes, you can hang your hat on." 

Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican who led negotiations for the House, said use of a consumer-price index to determine future hikes in school aid was "irresponsible and unbalanced." Williams was unable during negotiations to convince the Senate to eliminate the CPI. She also failed to add a requirement that superintendents certify funding was properly invested in school classrooms.

"Ensuring schools spend their money first on teachers and classrooms to raise student achievement should be priority No. 1," Williams said. "Beautiful facilities and extracurricular activities should be secondary to the needs of students the Supreme Court says we are failing."

The compromise included policy related to development of student academic reports, a bilingual education audit, continuation of a dyslexia task force, funding of college entrance exams and adjustment of the tax credit for scholarships to private schools.

Decisions by the Supreme Court about failure of lawmakers to constitutionally finance public education have driven action by legislators and governors to upgrade funding of districts serving 450,000 students.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt suggested legislators complete the K-12 bill in March. The House and Senate schedules call for adjournment Friday for a three-week break. Failure to resolve the issue of education funding would have threatened an April 15 deadline set by the Supreme Court for submitting legal briefs on the inflation fix.

In 2018, the Supreme Court accepted a five-year, $525 million expansion in state aid to public education with a caveat that legislators must address uncompensated inflation.

Plaintiffs in the K-12 lawsuit recently said the $90 million earmark in each of the next four years for inflation would be insufficient. Schools for Fair Funding, which represents Wichita, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Kansas City, Kan., districts recommended $90 million the first year, $180 million in year two, $270 million in the third year and $360 million the final year.

If Senate Bill 16 were to become law and survive judicial review, base state aid per student in Kansas would rise from $4,302 in 2020 to $4,846 in 2022.