Governor Sam Brownback signed HB 2506 today, ushering Kansas into the school choice club with tax-credit scholarships. Now, 24 states and the District of Columbia allow publicly funded private school choice.
Today is 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. Or find the most up-to-date information about Kansas’s tax-credit scholarship program here.
Individual tax-credit scholarships 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 kindergartners 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.