Condemning a new school-choice law as an unconstitutional voucher program, a group representing most of Kentucky’s public school districts made good on its promise to file a lawsuit challenging House Bill 563.
The Council for Better Education filed suit Monday in Franklin Circuit Court in Frankfort, alleging that House Bill 563’s provision establishing a form of scholarship tax credits for private school tuition will funnel $125 million in state tax dollars to private schools.
“As our (Kentucky) Supreme Court made clear in its landmark decision in Rose v. Council for Better Education, the General Assembly has an unyielding obligation to provide for and oversee an efficient system of common schools and cannot redirect public funds to private schools that serve a select few,” the council said in a news release announcing the lawsuit’s filing.
A full copy of the lawsuit can be found online with this story at bgdailynews.com.
Warren County Public Schools is listed as a principal plaintiff in the lawsuit, a move that was made possible last week when the district’s school board voted to let Superintendent Rob Clayton join any legal challenge against the law.
Along with the Frankfort Independent School District Board of Education, the Warren County Board of Education is one of two local school boards named as plaintiffs in the legal challenge. It names top state officials at the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Revenue as its only defendants.
The lawsuit said WCPS has “one of the highest concentrations of top-ranked public schools in Kentucky, educating more than 15,000 students in 2021.”
“The Warren Schools, like all public schools, will be harmed by the diversion of funds under HB 563 that will cause students to leave public school(s),” the lawsuit said.
Founded in 1984, the Council for Better Education brought the lawsuit that led to the landmark Rose v. Council for Better Education Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that found Kentucky failed to provide “equal educational opportunity” to all children regardless of where they live.
In its lawsuit filed Monday, the council invoked that historic ruling.
Its lawyers argued that House Bill 563 funds a separate, non-uniform school system that lies outside the state’s control, contradicting a Kentucky constitutional mandate of a state-administered “substantially uniform” school system.
By offering private donors tax credits for contributions made to funds that can be used for private school tuition, they asserted, Kentucky’s public schools would be hollowed out.
Unable to reduce fixed costs, like heating and cooling classrooms, “public schools will be forced to reduce other expenses, such as teaching staff, academic resources or after-school programs,” the lawsuit said.
“Each student the General Assembly urges to leave the public school system will leave behind a system with fewer resources to educate the remaining students,” it said.
The lawsuit petitioned for a court order that would halt the implementation of House Bill 563’s tax credit program, both temporarily and permanently.
The law is slated to go into effect June 28.
Another provision of the law, which requires school districts to create open enrollment policies for out-of-district students, would remain untouched even if the court ruled in the Council for Better Education’s favor.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.