FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Supporters of school choice gathered for a rally in Frankfort to celebrate National School Choice Week. The rally brought supporters of all ages from young students to career-committed teachers from various private schools.
EdChoice Kentucky organized the rally.
“I think a lot of time the coverage can focus on specific bills or who’s against this or that and today it lets us step back and focus on the students, focus on the parents, in particular, letting them tell their stories because really this issue transcends politics. It’s really about parents being in a position to make the best decision for their kids,” EdChoice Kentucky President Andrew Vandiver told FOX 56.
Vandiver said his group supported 2021’s Education Opportunity Account Act when it passed the General Assembly. He said the bill includes a program that allows private funding to help assist with education costs in public and non-public schools, including tuition assistance. But the legislation limits eligibility to Kentucky’s largest counties. At this time, however, it’s available to no family.
“Right now the program is, unfortunately, on hold, so the first thing I’d like to see is the courts uphold the program, The Kentucky Supreme Court will likely be taking the case up in the near future,” Vandiver said. “From state supreme courts all the way up the U.S. Supreme Court they’ve all upheld school choice and we’re confident that’s going to happen here in Kentucky”
Two bills filed in the 2022 session, HB 305 and SB 50, would aim to remove these eligibility constraints. However, advocates for public schools argue this takes funding away from public schools.
“These recent private school voucher bills introduced in the general assembly are yet another attempt to remove much-needed funding from our public schools and public school students by diverting it through “scholarship tax credits” that allow wealthy individuals and corporations to “donate” money in return for favorable tax refunds,” Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell said in a statement.
Vandiver argued, “This program takes nothing from the public schools, literally no dollars are taken from the public school budget. This is a privately funded program and it’s a win for everyone.”
Parents present for Monday’s rally explained how school choice affected them.
“At different stages in life kids do require different things,” Akia McNeary, a resident of Florence told FOX 56, who explained her success with public school was hit-and-miss among her children. She opted to enroll her son, Nehemiah, in private school when he encountered difficulty learning with an Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis. She said this option works for her and her son, but comes with a financial strain.
“First it was finances, and so I was like Lord I’m going to trust you and put him where you want him to be. If this is where he needs to be that I know he will make a way, and he has done that. We struggle, you know but we’re making it,” McNeary said.
If 2022’s school choice legislation passes, it would open eligibility to Nehemiah’s family, who currently lives in a county too small to receive tuition assistance.
“As parents, we should have a choice, these are our children. We know them better than any legislator, any representative. We know our children,” McNeary said.