Parents of school-age children faced a stark reality in 2020: one size does not fit all in education. Students need an array of educational options and support systems for academic success, and that’s why we support parental choice in education.
Our mission at CEF is to support equitable access to education for low income families who wish to attend Catholic schools. One of the scholarships we provide is the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program, which currently benefits about 300 students in 17 of our Archdiocesan K-12 schools, mostly in urban and rural areas. But the program eligibility is very restrictive and denies too many students from participating, merely because of their street address or where their families fall on the low-income spectrum.
See the impact of school choice through the story of one family whose lives have been changed by scholarships through the Kansas tax credit program.
This effective program should be expanded
Despite these eligibility restrictions, the program is very effective and the outcomes are stellar. CEF’s students on the tax credit scholarship achieve a 99% graduation rate, more than 20% higher than that of some neighboring schools. Our schools welcome scholarship students from various racial and religious backgrounds, and 95% of them are ethnic minorities.
Kansas state lawmakers have an opportunity in 2021 to expand the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program to all low-income students statewide. The program works by providing a 70-percent state income tax credit to individuals and businesses that contribute to Catholic Education Foundation and other nonprofits that provide K-12 private-school scholarships for low-income students. In addition to helping families access the education that is right for their children, these scholarships provide additional flexibility for families exploring different educational options.
Currently, the Kansas program is the most restrictive in the nation when it comes to student eligibility. To receive a scholarship, students must come from the very lowest-income families—those making 130 percent of federal poverty or less, which equates to roughly $34,000 for a family of four and qualifies them for federal free lunch. These students must additionally attend or be eligible to attend one of the 100 lowest-performing public elementary schools in the state. That list changes every year, making it difficult for families to maintain a stable educational path for vulnerable students.
As a result of these restrictions, the scholarship program is currently benefiting only 632 students in the entire state of Kansas. That represents one-half of one percent (1/2 of 1%) of the total K-12 student population in Kansas. This is a fraction of the number of students the program was intended to serve.
The changes proposed in the legislation can be made at no additional cost to the state. HB 2068 and SB 61 do not affect the K-12 education budget for public schools at all; in fact, it produces a net fiscal savings to the state general budget.
Support legislation to level the playing field
The end result of these combined restrictions is that the program excludes too many low-income Kansas students from even applying for K-12 scholarship aid. As such, the program is only able to serve a fraction of the families who need these scholarships. We support the expansion of this important program so that it will be fair and equitable for the students and families it was designed to help.
UPDATE: On Feb. 11, SB61 passed in the full Senate by a vote of 24-14. The House bill will be heading to a full vote in the coming weeks.
We are grateful to Kansas lawmakers who recognize the inequities of the current legislation, and are helping CEF create a level playing field when it comes to parental choice for students most in need.
Interested in securing your 2021 70% Kansas state income tax credits by supporting these scholarships? Contact CEF Director of Development Libby Knox today at [email protected].