Not content to just radically expand the current tuition tax credit (aka voucher) program in Kansas, Reps. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and Renee Erickson (R-Wichita) have introduced and held a hearing on their so-called “Kansas Reading Readiness Act,” House Bill 2552.

First, let’s review their proposed expansion of the tuition tax credit program, House Bill 2465. Under current law, a free lunch student from one of the 100 lowest performing public schools is eligible for a “scholarship” to attend any private school (even if that private school is lower performing or there is no data to assess its performance). Under their proposal, any free or reduced lunch student (expansion #1) from any public school (expansion #2) would be eligible for the scholarship. This expansion allows private schools to ignore the original intent of the law – allegedly to help struggling students in struggling schools – and go straight to recruiting low-income students from any school, even the best schools. What a great way to boost your own performance!

Now we get to the latest proposal. Under House Bill 2552, any third grader at Level 1 on the state ELA assessment or any fourth grader at Levels 1 or 2 on the assessment is eligible for a voucher equivalent to base state aid plus the at-risk weighting. The money would be set aside in a special account in the state treasurer’s office and the parent can decide what to do with it. The child can go to any private school (if the private school will accept the child), the child can stay in the public school and access all the services the public school would provide, or the child can stay in the public school and the parent can enroll the child in private supplemental services using the money. There is no explanation of what the public school would receive in funding if the parent decided to buy private services while leaving the child in the public school.

KNEA, along with United School Administrators of Kansas and several school districts, participated in joint testimony with KASB in opposition to the bill. Also speaking in opposition were Game On for Public Schools, the Kansas PTA, and an individual parent. Written testimony in opposition was submitted by Stand Up Blue Valley and the Olathe and Shawnee Mission school districts. Proponents, in addition to Rep. Erickson, were the Kansas Policy Institute and seven individuals from Fundamental Learning Center, a private group that hopes to take advantage of the money.

The worst part of all these discussions is that Reps. Williams, Erickson, and Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) who continually propose and argue for vouchers operate from the philosophy that public schools are inherently bad and private schools are inherently good. It doesn’t matter that the research does not support their position; it doesn’t matter that private schools not accredited by the State Board of Education report no student achievement data. What matters is the myth that public schools are bad and private schools are good.

With President Trump’s recent lauding of private schools – and acceptance – along with Betsy DeVos of the false narrative of bad public/good private schools, we thought you might be interested in reading an opinion piece in USA Today. They take on and dismantle the myth brilliantly. Click here to read it.