School-choice advocates are heralding the passage of House Bill 563 – which will usher in a form of scholarship tax credits – as a “historic win for Kentucky students.”
That was the message EdChoice KY President Charles Leis sent in a statement Monday night after lawmakers overrode a veto from Gov. Andy Beshear.
The majority of the local legislative delegation voted against the bill.
“Kentucky legislators told families across the commonwealth: We hear you and are going to work with you to give your kids all the opportunity they need to succeed in the classroom,” Leis said of the new law.
It allows private donors to receive tax credits for contributions to funds that can be used for public school tuition and private school tuition in the state’s most populated counties, including Warren County.
Advocates call the funds education opportunity accounts, and eligibility is capped at 175% of the reduced-price lunch threshold, about $84,800 for a family of four.
“We’re excited to watch Kentucky students and their families utilize education opportunity accounts to find success in the classroom, whether in a public or nonpublic school. When parents choose, Kentucky students win!” Leis said in his statement.
The bill drew opposition from many public education advocates, though not all. Critics said the measure will pull up to $25 million a year out of the state’s treasury.
That’s crucial funding, they argue, that could otherwise go to Kentucky’s K-12 schools. Textbooks, teacher training and full-day kindergarten have not been funded by the state for years.
For his part, Beshear said the measure could draw litigation because of a state constitutional provision that “requires public dollars to be spent on public schools.”
The measure received some local opposition when House lawmakers voted whether to override Beshear’s veto Monday.
Local Democratic Rep. Patti Minter of Bowling Green was joined by Republican Reps. Steve Sheldon of Bowling Green, Michael Meredith of Brownsville and Jason Petrie of Elkton in voting no.
Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, didn’t cast a vote. Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, voted yes in support of the bill’s final passage.
Another key provision of the bill – one that will make it much easier for students to attend public schools outside of the district they reside in – has divided local superintendents.
Under the measure, students who attend school outside their home district will be counted as part of the school’s average daily attendance, a deciding factor in how schools are funded in Kentucky.
Superintendent Gary Fields of the Bowling Green Independent School District has been a vocal and ardent defender of that provision.
He’s said there is an ongoing “crisis of the independents” across the state, with independent school districts being swallowed up by the larger county school districts that border them.
On the other hand, Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton tweeted his disappointment at the bill passage Monday.
“The negative impact of H.B. 563 is clear and pleading ignorance will be no excuse,” Clayton wrote, adding he’s proud of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and other education advocacy groups for opposing the measure.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdaily news.com.