The recently passed Kansas school finance bill expands a program that funds private school tuition for low-income students while offering a tax credit to some of the state’s wealthiest.
The program allows corporations to donate money for private school scholarships and in return deduct 70% of the value of those gifts from certain types of tax liability. Restrictions in the program target the scholarship money for low-income children within the attendance zones of certain public schools with low scores on standardized tests.
This year’s changes mark the second time the legislature has expanded the controversial program, since its inception in January 2015.
Previously, lawmakers tweaked it to let Wichita Catholic schools — which fund their schools through parishioner tithing instead of tuition — participate. Northeast Kansas Catholic schools, which charge tuition, were already able to join. This year’s potential changes would allow private individuals, instead of just businesses, to donate to the program and claim the 70% tax credit.
Rep. Ed Trimmer, a Winfield Democrat, decried the move during House debate. He suggested the state can’t afford a dent in tax receipts, despite a $500,000 individual giving limit on the new provision. The total program is capped at a maximum of $10 million tax credits per year.
“LLCs now that would lose their tax-free status could claim a 70 percent tax break with the deduction,” he said. “So in other words, you’re losing revenue and it could very