Kansas lawmakers close to passing school ‘choice’ measure

Kansas Education Funding Held Up By School ‘choice’ Proposal
Charlie Riedel

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo, students wait to enter Wyandotte County High School in Kansas City, Kan., on the first day of in-person learning. Conservative GOP lawmakers in Kansas are pushing a proposal to allow parents to use state dollars to pay for private schooling for children who are struggling in public schools.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republican legislators were close Thursday to winning final legislative approval for a measure that would allow parents of academically struggling students to pay for private schooling with state dollars normally earmarked for public schools.

The state House approved, 64-59, a bill that ties education funding to a proposal to set up education savings accounts for students who are at risk of failing in public schools. Parents could use the funds for a wide range of educational expenses to help their children, including private school tuition.

The Senate’s approval would send the measure to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Conservative Republicans argued their proposed “Student Empowerment Program” would give parents more ways to help their children and that promoting “school choice” pushes public schools to improve.

“Taxpayers would much rather fund kids that succeed,” said Republican Rep. Kristey Williams, of Augusta, chair of a House committee on education spending.

The measure includes Kelly’s proposal for $5.2 billion in state aid for public schools for 2021-22. But Democrats said the measure potentially siphon off several hundred million dollars for the new savings accounts.

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, called the measure a “Frankenstein” bill filled with “anti-public education policy.”


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