Kentucky legislature is resurrecting failed “school choice” bills — under different names
It would be a little more forthright and informative if the information about the bills on school choice being introduced in the 2022 Kentucky legislative session were more truthful about the intent of the bills.
And it would certainly be helpful if senators and representatives would be more truthful in selecting the labels for their bills. More on that in a moment.
The bills being proposed in the 2022 Kentucky legislature for school choice are essentially the same House bill 563 that was passed in the 2021 session, vetoed by the governor, and declared unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court in October. House bill 563 was simply labeled “AN ACT relating to education.”
It was actually an act relating to shifting public school funding to be used to support tuitions to private (the proponents of these bills prefer to use the label “non-public” as if that would take the onus off the proposals) institutions, but then you’d have to read the bill to discover that.
Because of widespread opposition to the liberal movement of those public funds, the original bill was altered to be applied only in counties with populations greater than 90,000 — which would have included only nine Kentucky counties.
Senate Bill 50 (SB50), labeled “AN ACT relating to educational opportunity account” would remove the county population requirement, double the credit cap, and remove the original five-year sunset provision. Not only does this last provision make the act permanent, it allows the total amount of funds allocated to the program to expand, thereby sucking more cash from the public school system.
The acts also stipulate that the funds are to be “available to students in the precincts in which they are enrolled.” This means that parents and students can search wherever they choose, even outside their home county, to find the school of their choice.
Both the Senate and House bills propose to raise the allowable income levels to which funds can be applied, so there’s no longer any truth to the assertion that the act is one directed to the poorer residents of Kentucky. What it actually accomplishes is to increase the pool from which eligible students can be drawn, making it more opportunistic for non-public schools to increase their presence in the state and for those already here to draw more public tax funds to their own use.
And there appears to be nothing in any of these bills which relates to the accountability of non-public schools under these provisions to meet state education requirements.
The KEA has opposed these school choice bills in the past and continues to do so because the organization realizes that the state is and always has been slow to provide the necessary funding to its public school system and that the creation of approval of these school choice bills will further reduce those funds to schools which educate 90% of Kentucky’s children.
Authors of these bills readily acknowledge that Kentucky schools are “wonderful.” They suggest that public schools are just not the “right fit” for everyone.
If they are not the right fit, parents have the opportunity – as they always have had – to place their children wherever they choose, and to pay for doing so. And if the non-public schools cannot accommodate these students without public funding they should either go out of business or find other methods of providing the funds without relying on Kentucky taxpayers.
Most Kentucky schools are doing a superb job with the funds provided to them. Why make it more difficult with these unnecessary bills instead of finding means of expanding the funding to them to make them more a “right fit” for all students?