Testimony Opposing Tax Credit Scholarships, HB 2465

This is testimony Mainstream is providing in opposition to HB 2465, to expand the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, at the hearing on January 30, 2020. This would expand an existing program that already diverts public tax funds to support private and parochial schools.

House K-12 Education Budget Committee Chair, Rep. Kristey Williams
Hearing: January 30, 2020, 3:30 pm, 546-S

Position – OPPOSE HB 2465

Chair Williams, and Members of the Committee, The Mainstream Coalition opposes HB 2465.

The Mainstream Coalition was founded 27 years ago by a sitting Republican State Representative, a sitting Democratic State Representative, and two active members of the clergy, among others. Our Board and membership are bipartisan, and our organization is nonpartisan. Our membership is strongest in Northeast Kansas, but we have members across the state. The concerns we bring are shared by these Kansans, from a range of political identities.

Mainstream affirms the right of every Kansan to an affordable, equitable, and excellent public education, from early childhood to post graduate opportunity, adequately funded by the state, that respects the professions that care for our children.

We stood in opposition to the original Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program because public tax money should not be spent on private, often parochial schools. The proposed changes to this act make this program even less compatible than it already was with Kansas’ Constitutional promise of an excellent public education for all.

The proposed bill would expand the pool of students eligible for the program from at risk students in low performing elementary schools to any student who qualifies for reduced lunch in any public school in Kansas. This will move the program from an opportunity for at risk students not being served by their public schools, towards a lifestyle choice for many parents who simply prefer a private or parochial school. The state should not be in the business of funding private education with no regard for religious instruction or student outcomes.

In addition, this has the potential to further reduce State revenues, and as such, to negatively impact the public education guaranteed to every Kansas child. As much as 70% of donations to the program are refunded to donors as a tax credit by the State. Those are revenue funds the State will no longer be able to use for other purposes, among them funding public education.

Our objections to the original program remain. The Mainstream Coalition espouses the separation of church and state as one of our founding principles, and regrets that the proponents of this bill feel Kansas taxpayers should pay for private, religious schools.

This bill will expand the reach and cost of the Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program. As such, we oppose its passage.

Thank you,

Michael Poppa
Executive Director, Mainstream Coalition

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