As things in life come to a close it is natural to take stock. The end of a year is no different and 2017 gave Kansans plenty of poor policy outcomes to review – not the least of which was a staggering retroactive tax hike. But, the expansion of a tax credit scholarship for low income children in Kansas is a piece of school choice good news that bears mentioning as 2017 wraps up.
The tax credit scholarship program is the only real school choice option in the state of Kansas. It was started in 2014 and allows some at-risk students a chance to escape their low-performing school and better themselves through a private school education. The definitions have changed over time but those at-risk students must also attend one of Kansas’ 100 lowest performing schools; low performance being defined by the Kansas Department of Education. In short, the poorest Kansas students WHO ALSO ATTEND a habitually low-performing school may apply for a scholarship to attend a private school.
Non-profits can register with the state (full list here) to serve as scholarship granting organizations (SGOs) under this program. Any Kansas taxpayer that owes state income tax can contribute to one of these SGOs and receive a 70% tax credit on their state income taxes. This means the “pass-through” entities now back on the tax rolls would be able to direct their retro-active tax liability to help low income children in failing schools have an opportunity to succeed.
One of those SGOs is Success for Kansas Students – full disclosure 2 KPI staff serve on the S4KSS board – and is just one of several good organizations helping to educate some of Kansas’ neediest kids through this program. Yet, too many kids remain left behind. This program needs to grow because it represents the best way to get low income kids in chronically under-performing public schools a better opportunity at success.
Taxpayers will now have the option of making sure that some of their state tax liability goes to help some of Kansas’ neediest children achieve their educational dreams. Also important to keep in mind, last year this program offered $553,000 in tax credits to help 188 children compared to an excess of $6 billion in education spending for nearly 500,000 pupils statewide.
Alaina has received a tax credit scholarship to Urban Preparatory Academy for the past several years. Her father now speaks of Alaina being the one to bound out of bed in the morning and drag him to school. Check out Alaina’s father – Shaun – tell a bit of their family’s story at the video above.
There is always plenty to bemoan in a year of DC shenanigans, massive state tax hikes, and destructive hurricanes. We have to look a bit harder but there is good to be found as well. The expansion of a program to help low income children is one example of some school choice good news that is worth mentioning as the year comes to a close as well.
Here’s to a 2018 in which more opportunities are given to Kansas families, businesses, and students to pursue their dreams with less government meddling, dictates, and coercion. With low income students falling further and further behind their peers on student achievement, this tax credit scholarship program seems like a good place to start!