Kansas House panel leader Marc Rhoades quits over school bill

03/31/2014 8:28 PM

03/31/2014 8:28 PM

Rep. Marc Rhoades unexpectedly resigned Monday as chairman of the Kansas House Appropriations Committee in protest over how a school funding proposal was being handled by Republican leaders.

Rhoades, a Newton Republican, submitted his resignation to House Speaker Ray Merrick before the start of what was to be two days of hearings on a funding proposal aimed at satisfying a Kansas Supreme Court ruling issued March 7.

Merrick, a Stilwell Republican who has been negotiating the plan with GOP Senate leaders and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, accepted the resignation but declined to comment.

Rhoades was not in the committee when a lengthy amendment was introduced Monday that linked the K-12 spending to that for higher education. He issued a short statement saying the bill had “gone through numerous alterations outside the committee process without the committee once having worked the bill.”

He said the proposed spending would be unsustainable given current state revenues and went beyond the scope of what was needed to address the court’s concerns about equalizing payments to poor school districts.

“None of the spending is tied to measureable education outcomes,” Rhoades said in his statement. “I regret I see no option but, respectfully, to resign as chair of appropriations to allow leadership to move forward.”

The proposal seeks to address two flaws in funding for poor school districts identified by the Kansas Supreme Court in a March 7 ruling in a school funding lawsuit. The court said the state must boost aid to poor districts.

The fix is estimated to cost $129 million, but the House plan would fund part of that increase by adjusting transportation aid to school districts.

Senate leaders are considering two proposals but haven’t scheduled hearings about the bills. Legislators are in their last week of session before starting a three-week break on Friday. Leaders and Brownback are hoping to have the funding bill finished, but it was unclear what impact Rhoades’ decision would have on the process.

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