TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Senate has passed Senate Bill 61 23-14, which expands the eligibility criteria for an educational financial assistance program.
Originally available for public school students eligible for free lunches and attending the 100 lowest-performing elementary schools, the Tax Credit for Low Income Student Scholarship Program now includes any student who receives free or reduced lunches. The bill also nixes the public school requirement.
Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes added the bill to a list of recent defeats Democrats are displeased with.
“The Kansas Senate has had quite the month,” Sen. Sykes said. “We began by stripping Kansans of their constitutional rights, then put on a political show about vaccines, and on Tuesday, we blew a $1 billion hole in the state budget. Now we’re rounding out our fifth week with an attack on our public schools. What games should Kansas families expect from us next week?”
Sykes expressed concern over the lack of accountability private schools face.
“Families choose to put down roots in Kansas because of our excellent public schools,” Sen. Sykes said. “Equal access to education creates stronger communities, attracts businesses, and develops a well-prepared workforce, all of which lead to a more prosperous state. Yet Senate Republican leadership is putting public dollars in the hands of private schools, which can discriminate freely and operate without accountability to Kansas taxpayers. While high-achieving students are hand-picked by private schools, struggling children are left behind with fewer resources and under-funded schools. Senate Bill 61 is bad policy for our students and represents yet another attack on Kansas families by Senate Republican leadership and their special interest supporters.”
Senate Republicans say the new criteria helps more students.
“The current program aids hundreds of students by providing their parents new options to ensure their child’s success,” Sen. Baumgardner said. “SB 61 would simply extend this hope and opportunity to more low- and middle income students in Kansas.”
“This is about students. By expanding this targeted tax-credit program to more low-and-middle income families, we are meeting our obligation to provide all of our kids in Kansas the best opportunity to learn and excel,” Sen. Renee Erickson said.
“SB 61 embraces a student-focused mindset by empowering more low-and-middle income families in Kansas the ability to provide hope and opportunity for their kids,” a joint statement from President Ty Masterson, Vice President Rick Wilborn, and Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop reads. “The Tax Credit Low-Income Scholarship Program has already helped hundreds of families in Kansas, and through SB 61, it will help hundreds more.”