School voucher bill plans could hurt Kansas public education, opponents say
TOPEKA, Kansas (KSNT) – Defenders of Kansas public schools fear lawmakers are looking to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize private schools and home schools.
The so-called “voucher” invoices would channel tax money to private and home schools. The bills are under consideration and should be quickly passed by lawmakers.
One of the bills, House Bill 2119, would allow eligible students to put money into a savings account to pay for private school tuition or other approved school fees, such as tutoring or services. educational.
Parents would be notified of their child’s eligibility for the program and then enter into a written agreement with the state treasurer to open an account for the eligible student.
While the bill is supposed to provide financial aid to “at risk” students, opponents of the bill say the wide range of eligibility is one of the bill’s main problems, which does not guarantee that students who are seriously at risk will get the help they need.
“A low-income student from a large family might be eligible, even if they’re doing well in school right now, and a really struggling child in poverty,” said Mark Tallman, spokesperson for the association of state school boards. “There is absolutely no guarantee that this child will be able to benefit from it. We don’t know if the school would accept them or if the family would be involved in making this happen. These are bills that say they help troubled children, but neither the current program [n]or this program actually requires[s] that is the case. “
Another bill that lawmakers discussed on Tuesday, House Bill 2068, would expand a program that uses tax credits to help low-income students attend private schools, allowing all eligible Kansas students to receive a Free and discounted federally subsidized lunch to participate.
Some supporters of the bill have pointed to differences in the operations of private and public schools during the coronavirus pandemic, in which private schools are able to operate with more in-person classes given limited class sizes.
However, Tallman said the same disparity between the operations of private and public schools is why these bills should be opposed.
Tallman told the Kansas Capitol Bureau that private schools are more likely to have the option of staying open because of their ability to impose an enrollment limit, while public schools do not have that option. If the bill passes, he fears that public schools will be left with limited resources to help struggling students.
Tallman said private schools should be held on par with public schools if they are to receive public funding.
“What looks like a way to give people a choice isn’t really going to give everyone a choice, as long as the school can choose its students,” Tallman said. “If private schools want public funding, there has to be the same expectation of what you do with it, how you are accountable and who you serve. “
A hearing on Bill 2119 is scheduled to take place at the Kansas State Capitol on Thursday, February 4.