Williams & Hoffman Push Through a Voucher Bill…Again

In her quest to push high achieving students out of public schools and into private schools – even unaccredited private schools – Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) once again maneuvered the radical expansion of the tuition tax credit voucher program into another bill and sent it out of the K-12 Budget Committee.

Last time Williams took HB 2465, the voucher bill she wants, and amended HB 2526 into it. HB 2526 removes Ft. Leavenworth from the Capital Improvement State Aid schedule. The bill as amended was then passed out of committee and now sits on the House floor.

This week, Williams took SB 382 – the Senate version of HB 2526 – changed it to be more like her preferred HB 2526 and amended HB 2465 into it on a motion of Rep. Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater). So now there are TWO voucher bills on the House floor! Yes, it’s Williams’ VOUCHER-PALOOZA!

HB 2465 takes the tuition tax credit program to new levels. The program was initially sold to legislators as a way to provide opportunities to low income children who are struggling to learn by moving them out of low-performing public schools and into private schools. Many of these private schools show no student performance data so it’s impossible to tell if they are high-performing or low-performing.

The amendments to the program in HB 2465 turn the concept on its head. Now abandoning any pretext of helping struggling students, this bill would expand the number of eligible students by adding reduced lunch eligibility to the definition of eligible student (it is currently only for free lunch students) and allowing private schools to recruit students from any public school.

Under this bill, private schools could apply academic admissions tests to students and still get voucher kids. They are now free to recruit the highest performing low-income students from the best public schools. It’s a great way to end responsibility for helping struggling students and bring in more tuition money.

We urge you to contact your representative and tell him or her to vote NO on HB 2465 and NO on SB 382. No vouchers – it’s that simple.

Coronavirus Now Impacting the Legislature

The Statehouse has been put on limited access to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus. Beginning now, access to the capitol building is being restricted to legislators, staff, and registered lobbyists. There will be no more public events like rallies or protests in the building in order to restrict the size of the crowds.

Additionally, it is increasingly looking like the legislature is considering moving up first adjournment which is currently scheduled for Friday, April 3. At that time the legislature would go on an extended April break, returning for the wrap-up or veto session on Monday, April 27.

There is now a rush to get a preliminary budget passed as quickly as possible, perhaps early next week, to allow for the possibility of ending the regular session some time next week. Given that many members of the legislature are over 60 and thus in the high-risk category, it is probable that a move to close is coming. This may be even more likely now that the nation is in a declared state of emergency.

We will continue to represent our members under the dome until such time as the session is closed.