The Kansas House moved to break gridlock on school finance Saturday by approving a deal crafted by frustrated Republican leaders that incorporates targeted investments sought by the Senate in a bill that gradually boosts state aid to districts by about $500 million over the next five years.

Unsatisfied Democrats pleaded with House colleagues to amend the bill to further expand special education programs and to include money for annual inflation adjustments in state aid or risk rejection by the Kansas Supreme Court. Amendments to the compromise were rebuffed by Republicans expressing fear their fragile political agreement with the Senate would disintegrate.

The House passed the bill on a vote of 63-56, and placed the pivotal piece of legislation in hands of the Senate. Originally, the Senate had adopted a $275 million increase. Gov. Jeff Colyer declined to endorse the Senate’s position, but lobbied on behalf of the $525 million version passed by the House.

“I think the money in this bill not only satisfies the court’s requirement but it’s going to make a significant difference to schools across Kansas,” said Rep. Fred Patton, a Topeka Republican who delivered the compromise on the House floor. “You may want more, you may want less, but I don’t think any of us can disagree that schools are going to be able to use this money and do a lot of good things for the kids in Kansas.”

On Friday night, negotiations by a House and Senate conference committee broke down and GOP leadership escalated talks on a plausible solution. The plan is for the House to insert the agreement into a bill and put it to a vote. If approved in the House on Saturday, it would go directly to the Senate.

“It’s time to take action,” said House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe. “We took a majority of our position and took a few of theirs. After meeting a day in conference, and not getting an agreement, it’s time for us to take action.”

Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican who urged the Legislature to find consensus before adjourning for a couple weeks, said before either chamber took action that he endorsed the compromise hammered out by Ryckman and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park.

The governor urged lawmakers to affirm the deal on Saturday.

“With strong fiscal leadership,” Colyer said, ”$500 million is affordable and sustainable without a tax increase on Kansas families. The time to act is now. Kansas students, teachers and families need to know that their schools will remain open and funded adequately and equitably.”

The Supreme Court gave the Legislature and Colyer until April 30 to adopt a remedy to violations of the education clause in the Kansas Constitution.

While the House previously approved legislation adding $525 million to schools, the Senate preferred increases over five years amounting to $275 million.

Prospects of gaining approval from the full House and Senate were unclear, but failure in the House would have been a setback.

“I’ll tell you the compromise is very fragile. It could blow apart,” said House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton.

Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, said he was disappointed Republican leadership prepared to deploy a procedural strategy that would leave the Senate no opportunity to amend the new school finance bill after approved by the House. In the past, Republicans and Democrats have criticized that avenue for quickly moving bills.

“This has been done to us for those of you who remember ... and we were frustrated,” Whitmer said. “We felt it wasn’t fair when a bill was shoved down our throats and we couldn’t debate it, we couldn’t amend it and we just had to concur or nonconcur. I really think this is wrong.”

The alternative bill also will include text that presents the Legislature’s majority perspective on educational goals and commitments to fund the education of about 400,000 school students in Kansas. The measure also would include $2.8 million to subsidize ACT tests of Kansas high school students and $500,000 to support mentoring programs for teachers.

Two Democrats offered proposals to add to the total, but both attempts were shot down by a wide margin. Rep. Ed Trimmer, of Winfield, restated his desire to calculate inflation for the base aid figure rather than total spending, which would have added $186 million to the plan. Rep. Jeff Pittman, of Levenworth, called for a $140 million boost to special education.

Over and over again, Democrats warned their counterparts that a failure to adequately fund schools will result in a special session that forces lawmakers to return this summer.

“We are doing ourselves a disservice because when we come back, this is not the court’s fault,” said Rep. Cindy Neighbor, D-Shawnee. “This is the choice we make. Don’t blame something on someone else because we did not do our job. That’s a consequence. I’m tired of us looking for the easy way out.”