FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Tuesday was School Choice Day at the state capitol. Educators and parents spent the day advocating the issue as lawmakers consider a bill expanding Kentucky’s current school choice opportunity account law.
A pair of bills, Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 305, would take Kentucky’s law allowing non-public school tuition assistance in large counties and expand it statewide. Supporters said it’s all privately funded through tax credits, but those tax credits are spurring pushback from opponents who argue it’s slimming the pot for public schools.
“The education opportunity account expansion bills are privately funded, so they don’t take one penny out of the state education budget,” Andrew Vandiver of EdChoice KY told FOX 56. Vandiver said when the original law was passed in 2021, the education budget was also increased and that is likely to occur again.
“So the argument is just whether that constitutes a portion of the budget or not and I would argue that it’s not, it hasn’t made its way into the budget to begin with,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) said. Alvarado is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill. It would allow private donors to pay into an account that funds the tuition assistance in exchange for a tax credit. The current version of the law only limits eligibility to counties with population greater than 90,000. Currently, the law is being litigated in the Kentucky Supreme Court over its constitutionality.
“In the state of Kentucky, our Constitution says tax dollars that are specifically created or implied for public education can only be spent for the purposes of public education,” Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell said.
KEA is opposed to the legislation and Campbell said they believe public tax dollars should be spent on public schools. He argued the tax credits ultimately take money away from the state to use on public services.
“What they try to say as a workaround really is providing those tax credits on the backside, that does take away from the general fund which makes it smaller, which means there’s less dollars in the general fund to fund our public schools, to fund roads, state police emergency services,” he said.
“I’d say that’s not true. I mean we have many tax credits in the state that are used for multiple different things. Agricultural tax credits, historical housing tax credits. You have mortgage interest tax credits that we offer to citizens. So, all those are tax credits that we use, and so the argument would have to be, if it’s going to apply to this it would have to apply to all of them that we have out there, that it’s somehow stealing from education.” Alvarado said.
Campbell said his organization does not oppose school choice but believed these opportunities should be funded through scholarships or direct donations. The bills have not yet been heard in committee.