Kansas lawmakers consider expanding tax credits for private school scholarships

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Should the state use taxpayer money to help send some students to private school? That’s the question lawmakers are considering today as they look at a bill to expand the state’s current private school scholarship program.

“We know that good education, is as varied as people who come to receive it,” said Becky Elder of the Northfield School of the Liberal Arts.

But some say funding that choice is not the state’s job, “At a time when we are seeing budget crunches and sweeps from other funds, including 2.9 million of the extraordinary need fund which was not given to the districts requesting it,” said Erin Gould, a public education advocate with ‘Game On for Kansas Schools.”

As lawmakers consider expanding a tax credit program to help send more Kansas kids to private schools, public education advocates question why.

“Particularly concerning at a time when we’re so concerned about a lack of funding available for our public schools. Very, very constrained budget we’ve dealt with for several years. We believe there are a lot of un-met needs,” said Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Board.

The bill would give a full tax credit to businesses or individuals (a new addition) who donate to an organization that gives scholarships for students to attend private schools.

Supporters say it’s not about attacking public schools, just giving all students the opportunity for success.

“we’re not just trying to put them into private school for the sake of putting them there, we’re trying to put them into schools where they can advance and get the one on one training, learning and encouragement that they actually need to succeed,” said Rep. John Bradford, a Republican from Lansing and the sponsor of the bill.

Opponents say attending private school alone, doesn’t guarantee success.

“Particularly if those are aren’t required to have the kind of accountability through testing and accreditation that public schools do, so we kind of know what’s going on with the resources,” said Tallman.

“The results that these schools will produce will be shown in the graduation rates, the scores that they achieve, again their attendance at college. Yes it’s very good,” said Bradford.

Under the proposed bill a two parent household making $70,000 or less a year would qualify for the scholarship program, even if their students are already attending at a private school.

Current law requires students to attend a Title One public school and be considered “at risk” to qualify.

The state has $10 million budgeted for tax credits through that current program.

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