Governor Signs Tax-Credit Scholarships, Makes Kansas 24th School Choice State
Governor Sam Brownback signed HB 2506, ushering Kansas into the school choice club. Now, 24 states and the District of Columbia allow publically funded private school choice.
This a culmination of years of work and an ever growing coalition. Just last month, Kansas parents and supporters hosted a rally at the capitol showing their elected representatives that there is a demand for school choice, and today the governor is beginning to provide them long-awaited educational options.
How does this new tax-credit scholarship program work? Learn more of the details of the bill below.
Each scholarship can amount to $8,000 to offset the cost of tuition, fees, and expenses and, if applicable, transportation to a qualified school.
Eligible students must be attending “failing schools” as designated by the state board of education, and qualify for free lunch under the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. That income requirement equals 130 percent of the federal poverty level or $30,615 for a family of four. Additionally, low-income kindergarteners who would be assigned to a failing school are also eligible as well as children coming in from out of state. A very conservative estimate suggests approximately 35,000 Kansas students could receive scholarships should the funding cap be met by business contributions.
The legislation did not add any additional regulations to private schools. Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) are required to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and hold a surety bond after receiving $50,000 in contributions. Additionally, each year the SGO is required to be audited by a certified public accountant.
Kansas’ tax-credit scholarship program started out as HB 3777, which ultimately stalled in committee. After that process the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Gannon case, which required the state to spend an additional $120 million on education to boost equity funding. To comply with the ruling, the legislature created a bill that appropriated the money, but added some additional measures as part of the package. One of those measures was the newly resurrected tax-credit scholarship program. This bill was later authored in a conference committee of both the House and the Senate, and the resulting legislation was voted on by the full House and Senate. That conference committee report was adopted 63-57 in the House and 22-16 in the Senate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Chartier serves as a State Programs and Government Relations Director for the Friedman Foundation. Prior to working at the Foundation, Michael served as the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, as well as Policy Director for the Professional Licensing Agency.