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Op-Ed: Using Local Tax Dollars for Charter Schools a Bad Idea

I believe using local tax dollars as part of the formula for paying for charter schools is a bad idea, especially for Northern Kentucky. Let me explain why.

As a region, Northern Kentucky pays a higher percentage of local tax dollars to pay for our schools.

Even though education is a state responsibility, in some Northern Kentucky school districts we are covering over 60 percent of the costs.     

In Fort Thomas, where I live, citizens pay 64 percent of our kids' education through local taxes. That’s right, of the $9,035 per student, we only get around 36 percent from state funding.

Because of that fact, we have higher-than-normal local property taxes.   

Most of the time, we quietly go along with tax increases. I think we do this for a couple of reasons.

First, we have a terrific school board that is elected by our community. Unlike some communities, many consider the Fort Thomas school board election to be more important than the city council! Because we have such a good group, we know when they determine local money needs to be increased, it is for good reason.

Second, we know that without a terrific school system, our property values would plummet. When we vote to raise our local taxes for our schools, we know we are voting on something that will indirectly increase the value of our homes. Neighbors that don’t even have kids understand that fact.  

This brings me to House Bill 520.  

This bill is a charter school bill. The current language would authorize any student to take his or her local and state tax dollars and use them for any school in the state of Kentucky.   

So, imagine your neighbor decides to send his child to a school in another county. Not only do the state dollars follow the child, so does your local tax dollars. The tax dollars that our locally elected school board voted to increase for the benefit our local community would be spent somewhere else.

Furthermore, the bill makes it possible for the dollars to be spent towards a “virtual school” that could be located in a completely different region of the state. This, despite the fact that nearly every “virtual school” has demonstrated terrible outcomes for students.

Spending local taxes outside our community would be tough to take for those of us in Northern Kentucky. I honestly don’t believe it’s constitutional.  

That said, if it were to survive a lawsuit, it could be very bad for communities like ours. We are already in a constant battle over funding. To introduce that kind of dynamic would be a nightmare to manage.  

Most of us believe that some sort of charter school bill will pass in Frankfort this session. What is in the final version matters.   

Having our local school boards in charge of charters is a good idea.

Charters should be required to accept all kids (poor, disabled, etc.), just like our public schools.

Charters should be required to meet the same academic standards and adhere to the same levels of accountability as our public schools.

Having state dollars follow a child is one thing, but local dollars should be left out of the discussion.  If they need additional funding (beyond state dollars) to make it work, they will need to make up the difference some other way.   

If you agree there are some problems with House Bill 520, please let your representative know.  

Call the LRC Message Line at: 1-800-372-7181 and/or call your representatives office at 1-502-564-8100 and ask for them by name.  

If you care about your kid’s education, and/or your property values, take a minute to engage on this issue.  

Brent Cooper is the president of Covington-based C-Forward and lives in Fort Thomas