Legislative Session - School Vouchers/Education Tax Credits
School vouchers, "education opportunity accounts." "education tax credits," are all names for structures that divert revenue away from public schools and other state programs for the benefit of private schools. Some programs do that directly (true vouchers), others accomplish the same goal indirectly, through tax credits for contributions made to "scholarship" or "opportunity" programs. Regardless of the structure, KEA opposes all school voucher schemes.
After the 2021 General Assembly passed HB563 by a 1-vote margin, KEA worked with NEA, the Council for Better Education, individual school districts and individual parent plaintiffs to mount a legal challenge. We were successful at the trial court level; on October 8, 2021, Judge Shepherd issued a Final Order holding the tax credit provisions of HB563 unconstitutional. You can read Judge Shepherd's decision here.
Tell your legislators to vote NO on HB563!!
Instead of handing out tax breaks to big corporations and big individual donors, there’s plenty the legislature could actually do to address inequity in the public schools. We can think of this list offhand: fully fund transportation; fully fund textbooks & technology; fully fund services for English language learners; fully fund support services for students with special needs; fund more guidance counselors; and give cost of living raises to every public employee. And that’s just the short list.
But instead of doing what they should, the legislature is again doing what they want. “Education Opportunity Accounts” are just another name for school vouchers, another name for a scheme to divert public funds to private education providers. Although this bill claims to support “public school choice” and to provide financial support for services rendered by public schools, that is a mirage. Public schools already provide services for free, so there is absolutely nothing to be gained by offering parents and guardians a sham “opportunity” for payment.
KEA believes every student deserves an excellent public-school education, regardless of their zip code or their financial circumstances. But excellence can’t be achieved when the General Assembly is constantly and deliberately undermining the financial requirements of the system. Public education funding in Kentucky is down over 16% since 2008 and continues to be a smaller portion of the Commonwealth’s overall budget each year.
If HB563 passes, $25 million tax dollars each year will be funneled through “Account Granting Organizations” that can keep up to 10% of the tax-free contributions they receive for administrative expenses. The “education service providers” that will be eligible to receive those funds are literally defined as “a person or organization that receives EOA funds . . . “ No certification, no background checks, no oversight at all. In fact, the bill specifically prohibits any state agency from exercising oversight and guarantees the “independence” of the providers. This is ridiculous, and at its worst, dangerous. This legislation deliberately puts Kentucky students and their families at the mercy of any online or in-person self-appointed “education service provider” in the name of “school choice.”
Here’s what these vouchers really do:
- Reduce general fund revenue by $25 million each year, which means less money for everything in the state budget, including the state portion of SEEK funding.
- Force public schools to choose among critical programs, like school safety, textbooks/technology, special education, transportation, and other essential programs.
- Give your public tax dollars to private “education service providers” with no oversight on provider credentials, curriculum, student access or student anti-discrimination practices.
- Decrease tax obligations for the rich at the expense of the rest of us.
The Commonwealth must generate more revenue to improve the circumstances for every citizen instead of providing financial benefits for the wealthy and their corporations, particularly when those schemes are being championed by out-of-state special interests.