School choice supporters scored a win with the Kansas House of Representatives passing legislation to create vouchers for students in a narrow vote Wednesday.
If it becomes law, the Sunflower Education Equity Act would create the state’s first educational savings accounts, giving families with participating children about $5,000 per student. The funds could be used for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, educational therapies, online learning programs, school supplies and more.
“The Sunflower Education Equity Act is a broad legislative compromise which includes critical policy requests from both political parties,” House Republicans wrote in a joint statement praising the passage. “This important middle ground truly embodies a good faith effort to listen to both sides and meet in the middle for the kids, teachers, and schools in our state.”
The legislation, if passed, will have a slow rollout starting with some students being eligible for the 2024-2025 school year, including public school students who have low state test scores and those who qualify for lunch assistance programs. Also eligible would be up to 2,000 private school students whose families earn 300% of the federal poverty line or less.
“Kansas will take a big step in the right direction towards empowering families with education freedom if Governor Kelly signs the bill to fund students instead of systems into law,” Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, told Fox News in a statement. He said other Democrats, such as Gov. Josh Shapiro, have supported school choice legislation.
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“For far too long in K-12 education, the only special interests represented the employees – the adults – in the system,” DeAngelis said. “But the kids now have a union of their own: their parents. Politicians from all parties would be wise to listen to them going forward.”
The bill passed the Kansas House with a 64-61 vote over the course of an hour, during which, three Republicans changed their votes from “nay” to “yay,” The Kansas City Star reported. Twenty-two Republicans voted against the bill, and one Democrat voted in favor.
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Despite not having a veto-proof majority, some Kansas Republicans are hopeful that Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, will support the legislation since it also includes raises for teachers and an additional $72 million for special education.
The bill passed in the Kansas Senate last month in a 22-16 vote before being modified to include savings accounts rather than tax credits. Senate President Ty Masterson told the Topeka Capital-Journal that he expects the legislation to pass when it returns to the upper chamber.
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“I think we have the votes,” Masterson said. “I know they’ve made a lot of changes, from what I understand. At this point I have no idea exactly what that bill does. But the short answer is yes.”
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