An update from the Kansas Parents as Teachers Association executive director

By Nancy Keel, Kansas Parents as Teachers Association Executive Director

Parents as Teachers (PAT) supporters have been working the past two weeks to speak out in response to threatened cuts. Their message is being heard and appreciated by most of the legislators. I’ve heard reports of a large number of calls and emails in the halls of Capitol. Advocates are making a difference!

On Feb. 24, at the House Social Services Budget Committee meeting, members held a vote to strip $7.2 million from PAT. The next day, after the Symposium for Early Success, the committee changed course and decided to have a hearing on the PAT issue on March 5. As a result of the hearing, the committee decided not to defund PAT. However, here is a synopsis of what they did recommend for FY16 and FY17 PAT funding:

  • $200,000 of PAT funds to be transferred to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA);
  • $3 million to be transferred to a reading program and replaced with $3 million from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);
  • $4 million to be used for families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which would be about $48,000 of annual income for a family of four. Chair Carpenter said this would be a two-year pilot project for measuring the effects of adopting a sliding-scale fee. Families above 200 percent of the federal poverty level would have to pay for PAT services.

This recommendation goes to full House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, March 10, and will require more debate. There are two questions in particular that I think advocates should raise:

1. Can TANF dollars be used for this purpose? Generally, TANF monies are meant for children and families living in poverty, not for education programs. Whether the TANF grant can be used for Parents as Teachers is unclear.
2. What will be the effect of instituting a pilot sliding scale fee collection system? Would each school district have to develop a bureaucracy to verify parental income and establish a fee collection system? What would be done with the funds collected? Would districts be allowed to serve only families under the poverty level and not collect funds? Who would charge the fees and collect the fees?

Kansas PAT encourages the Legislature not to accept the recommendations from House Social Services Budget Committee.

  • The recommendation is not consistent with the block grant funding for public schools.
  • The SSB recommendation dismisses the recommendations from the Children’s Cabinet and the governor.
    The proposal would cause bookkeeping and administrative burdens as local school districts are not equipped to collect fees from parents and would have to report for both Children’s Initiatives Fund and TANF funds.
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