Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Ty Masterson, R-Andover.

DALLAS — Kansas lawmakers have passed a school funding formula to replace one that state courts have declared unconstitutional.

Under Senate Bill 7, school districts will receive block grants as the Legislature seeks over the next two years to develop a more equitable system than the one that has been in place since the 1990s.

The state Senate voted 25-14 to pass the measure March 16, sending it to Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback had proposed in January replacing the current system with block grants and is expected to sign the bill.

Supporters of the bill say the legislation will provide districts more than $300 million in additional funding, but opponents claim that poor districts will receive less.

The House passed the bill March 13 in a 64-57 vote.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, carried the bill on the Senate floor.

Masterson, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the block grant system, which sunsets after two years, is intended to create an environment where a new, permanent formula can be written.

Masterson said misinformation about the bill had led some constituents to believe that lawmakers were threatening to defund education.

"We continue every year to make it a priority," he said. "When we took the billion dollar hit from the 2008 crash, this was the one area we didn't devastate."

Three days later, Masterson's committee approved a proposed $15.5 billion budget for the state's next fiscal year that wouldn't balance out without tax increases.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee's 9-2 vote on the spending plan sends it to the full chamber for debate. The House is considering a separate budget bill that would also require higher taxes.

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