School choice is blossoming in the Sunflower State this spring.
Last week, Governor Sam Brownback (R) signed into law Kansas’ first school choice scholarship program—making it the 24th state to adopt private school choice.
Corporations that contribute to scholarship-granting organizations (which provide vouchers to low-income children and children with special needs to attend a private school of choice) can receive up to a 70 percent credit for their total tax liability. The credits are capped at $10 million, and eligible students can receive scholarships of up to $8,000 to attend a private school of choice. In order to be eligible, students must be assigned to a public school deemed “failing” by the state board of education and be from families who have a gross-income less than or equal to 130 percent of the federal poverty level or $30,615 for a family of four.
A conservative estimate offered by the Friedman Foundation suggests that some 35,000 Kansas children could receive scholarships thanks to the new law.
“This is a win for Kansas students. This is a win for parents. … And it’s a win for property taxpayers,” said Brownback. These are “some of the most significant reforms we’ve seen for several years in the state.”
The new school choice program was part of a larger school-financing package that addresses the state Supreme Court order in Gannon v. Kansas. The court held that funding disparities between school districts violated the state’s Constitution. The legislature bridged the gap by providing choice to parents, raising the base aid per student to $4,492 (a 17 percent increase over current level), and ending teacher tenure.
With this reform Kansas is “putting the parent back in the driver’s seat of their kid’s education,” says James Franko, policy director of the Kansas Policy Institute.
Research shows that one of the greatest factors in educational success is parental involvement. Educational opportunity through school choice empowers parents with the ability to choose the best educational option for their children. School choice also promotes competition, applying competitive pressure that can lead to better performance in the public system as well.
The school choice movement in America is booming. With Kansas’ adoption, 24 states and the District of Columbia now have private school choice programs.