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Two bills that could undermine Kansas schools

Sharon Hartin Iorio


If two bills that pass through the Kansas Legislature become law, together they could destabilize public schools, prove disastrous for Kansas students, and reduce the state’s overall tax fund.

As currently written, the bills would shift funding to private and home schools, as well as allow affluent parents to donate enough to an existing scholarship fund to write off the entire cost of private schooling. Yet low-income parents with vouchers still couldn’t afford the cost of many private schools.

Additionally, there are as many as 60 Kansas counties with no private schools for students to attend.

The most publicized and hotly contested bill is the Kansas Sunflower Education Equity Act HB2218, also called the education savings account voucher bill. It would provide parents with the annual state funding amount per pupil of nearly $5,000 for their students in grades one through 12 and preschoolers with disabilities.

HB2218 vouchers cover a range of expenses, including tuition at accredited and non-accredited private schools and micro-schools where home students form groups to teach their children together, often in each other’s homes.

The bill allows for individual home schooling and other educational services such as online learning.

The Kansas Division of the Budget estimates that the annual state aid loss to school districts would be approximately $152 million.

The state treasurer’s office (not the Kansas State Department of Education) would administer the program, but administrative costs are not known due to a lack of data for pre-school and private school students.

Backers of the school put the total cost at $270 million.

HB2218 requires only one term for full-time education in math, science, reading, grammar, and social studies.

In an interview on National Public Radio 1A on February 13, the moderator asked House Education Committee Chair Kristey Williams, a Republican, whether HB2218 would allow for racist and white supremacist beliefs. Williams replied that such speech was “repugnant”.

Noting that a network of micro-schools in Ohio were recently discovered to teach Nazi propaganda and racism, the moderator repeated the question. Williams said she believes in parenting and that most, if not all, parents in Kansas would choose to teach their children the best way possible. Find the entire interview at https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510316/1a

Another bill that would undermine public schools is the scholarship tax credit program originally intended to provide private tuition to students living in poverty. Bill HB2048 would extend the funding to a much larger income group and increase the tax credit to 100% for corporate or individual gifts. If approved, wealthy parents could write off the entire cost of private school. If this bill becomes law, the Kansas Division of the Budget plans to reduce the state general fund by approximately $10 million in the first year.

Such proposals circulating in the legislature leave students without curriculum standards or protection from indoctrination. In addition to taking funds away from public school budgets, the increase in tax credits takes away from the general fund resources for other state expenditures.

I too believe that Kansas parents make the right decisions. I think they’re going to tell lawmakers to trash these bills.

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Sources used in this report: KSDE Report List of Accredited and Non-Accredited Private Schools, KASB Resources—News, NPR 1A Feb.13, HB2218, HB2048

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Sharon Hartin Iorio is Dean Emerita of the Wichita State University College of Education.

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