NKY Education Leaders Ask Governor to Veto School Choice Bill
The presidents of the education associations in Kenton, Campbell, and Boone counties (part of the Kentucky Education Association) asked Governor Andy Beshear to veto House Bill 563, dubbed the school choice bill by proponents.
The KEA stated Monday that the legislation, which passed both chambers of the state legislature, would divert $25 million from the state to private schools.
HB 563 combines two school choice concepts that faced legislators individually.
It requires school districts to craft policies to accept students who live within other districts' boundaries. Funding would be allowed to follow the student to the school they attend, whether in their home district or not.
The "school without borders" concept draws mixed reactions from superintendents. Some, particularly those representing independent districts, say this will mean more options for families, increase competition and would stabilize funding.
The legislation was praised by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, as reported by the Catholic Telegraph:
House Bill 563 would create a tax credit scholarship fund for certain Kentucky students, called an education opportunity account. That money could be used for students to attend schools outside of their education districts, including private schools.
“H.B. 563 is a very good piece of legislation,” Andrew Vandiver, associate director of the conference, told CNA on Wednesday. “It is both inclusive of students and covers a variety of services.”
However, Vandiver said that “one area of weakness” with the bill was that it included only the largest counties in Kentucky – those with a population over 90,000.
That population clause relates to nine counties in Kentucky, including the three northern-most. KEA leaders in all nine of those counties released statements on Monday.
“We call for the veto of HB563 because it is bad education policy, bad fiscal policy, and bad public policy,” said KEA President Eddie Campbell. “Kentucky’s public schools are filled with highly qualified and dedicated educators who work diligently to ensure that every student in the Commonwealth is successful. Our public schools have endured continuous cuts and underfunding. Our legislators should be focused on fully funding public schools so every student from Pikeville to Paducah from the Ohio River to the Cumberland River have a safe, nurturing and high-quality public education.”
Each local KEA president said that lawmakers hid the legislation until a last-minute procedural maneuver, which added the tax break language and then quickly passed it in the Senate. The bill narrowly passed the Kentucky House with a one-vote margin, 48-47, with five representatives abstaining.
“Considering Kentucky’s public schools have been underfunded in every budget since 2008, funding HB563 is literally stealing money from the public-school children of our Commonwealth," said Leann Lewis, president of the Kenton County Education Association. "The $25 million in tax credits could be used to fund textbooks, professional development and all the things that have been cut over the past years. We must ensure a quality public education for our students. That starts with a veto of this bad bill by Governor Beshear.”
“As an educator, we spend hundreds of dollars each year to make our class environment suitable and welcoming for our students. Years have gone by without suitable textbooks or technology needs, especially the latter given an ongoing global pandemic," said Mary M. Wilson, president of the Boone County Education Association. "Taking that line-item budget down to $0 only hurts the students and eventually will fall into the local districts hands to fund. How will that be possible when budgets are already tight? Our legislators can, and need to, do better! The Boone County Education Association stands behind a veto of HB563.”
“We desperately need Governor Beshear to veto HB563. Campbell County has multiple school choice options available to families," said Lisa Day Poor, president of the Campbell County Education Association. "But only one choice provides an appropriate education for every child. The public-school system is the only school system that welcomes ALL children. Private schools can reject students with special behavioral or educational resources, and public tax money should only go to schools that accept ALL students. At a time when we are operating under-budget as we are, we definitely cannot afford to lose funding. Governor Beshear, Veto HB563 and do not give away our much-needed funding to schools that can turn students away.”