Kentucky Supreme Court rules state school choice law unconstitutional
A Kentucky Supreme Court judge struck down the state’s so-called school choice program Thursday.
The state’s highest court unanimously ruled House Bill 563, officially called the Education Opportunity Account Act, as unconstitutional.
The legislation creates an almost dollar-for-dollar tax credit for Kentuckians who donate to scholarship-granting educational nonprofit organizations.
The measure sparked controversy last year and narrowly passed the Kentucky General Assembly with a 48-47 vote in the House. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vetoed the bill, but both the state House and Senate overrode the veto.
Opponents of the bill argued the measure would divert tax money from Kentucky public schools, while supporters said the measure would help open up new educational opportunities for families.
In the ruling, judges agreed with the bill’s critics, stating that the substance of the bill was “obvious.”
“The Commonwealth may not be sending tax revenues directly to fund nonpublic schools’ tuition (or other nonpublic school costs) but it most assuredly is raising a ‘sum… for education other than in common schools,” the ruling states.
Eddie Campbell, president of the Kentucky Education Association, a labor group that represents thousands of educators in the state, applauded the court’s decision, calling the ruling a “victory” for the state’s public schools and public school students.
“It’s always been clear to the plaintiffs and their supporters that the Kentucky Constitution prohibits any attempt to divert tax dollars from our public schools and students without putting the question to voters,” Campbell said in a statement.
“We simply can’t afford to support two different education systems — one private and one public — on the taxpayers’ dime, and this ruling supports that concern. This decision is proof that the courts continue to serve as an important check against legislative overreach,” he added.
Beshear also lauded the ruling.
“This issue ought to be done. We can’t send public dollars directly or indirectly to private or charter schools, nor should anyone try. The answer is to work together to improve our public school system,” said Beshear. “Let’s provide funding, let’s provide that raise so that we can get enough teachers in the classroom and let’s invest in technology and social and emotional learning the way we need to.”
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