The Garden City Telegram
3/9/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

KIDS hit

Lawmakers wrongly target college savings program.

A radical tax-cut plan has put a number of good Kansas programs in jeopardy.

One, a program in place to help low-income families save for their children's education, is among those targeted by state lawmakers wrangling with a budget shortfall.

A bill introduced in the Kansas House would eliminate the KIDS Higher Education Savings Match Program. The program provides an incentive for parents to save for tuition expenses for their children planning to attend college or vocational schools.

It's a modest investment for the state, which has issued grants totalling about $500,000 this year.

Just $600 per year may be matched to qualifying families, who must be at 200 percent or below the federal poverty level — roughly $47,100 for a family of four.

Critics looking to shelve the program cite a fear of fraud, even though there's no evidence of as much happening. To prevent fraud, recipients must present a tuition receipt to the state treasurer's office.

In truth, consider the attempt to erase the savings program as little more than another conservative Republican attack on education and disadvantaged Kansans. Indeed, it's easy to see how losing such an opportunity would be even more damaging in Garden City and other southwest Kansas communities with higher percentages of poor families.

Supporters of the program know that along with making college more attainable, the program is a sensible investment in the state's future workforce. And, it can help break the cycle of poverty — something Gov. Sam Brownback supposedly supports.

Yet as the governor and his allies embark on their mission to eliminate the state's income tax, they're content to pay for the corporate-friendly benefit by exacting a costly toll in deep cuts to state-funded services and programs ranging from public schools to assistance for the poor.

With economic challenges ahead in Kansas, it's going to be more difficult for lower-income families to save for their children's education.

Abolishing a proven way to help them do as much makes no sense. Sadly, though, it's what we've come to expect from conservative Republicans who find it easy to turn their backs on Kansans in need.