FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ky. — A Kentucky judge recently ruled against the state’s new controversial school choice program.
Earlier this month, a Franklin County circuit court judge struck down the state’s school choice law. He ruled that the method used to pay for the education opportunity account program was unconstitutional.
Judge Phillip Shepherd decision would pause state officials from implementing the program under House Bill 563, passed out of the Republican led legislature earlier this year.
Emilie McKiernan Blanton, a union member for Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) and a Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) teacher tells Spectrum News 1, "the schools that would benefit from the tax credits can discriminate against kids regardless of their disabilities, their religions, their affiliation, anything about their identity."
The court ruled, the grants are prohibited by the state’s constitution because they use public funds for the direct benefit of private educational opportunities.
"If there are families that want to chose to go to private school there’s nothing stopping those private schools from creating their own scholarships without utilizing tax funds to do so," suggests McKiernan Blanton.
Ben Field is an attorney for the Institute for Justice, which is a nonprofit law firm that advocates for educational choice, plans on appealing the ruling.
"The judge improperly treated this as if this was a narrow piece of legislation only directed toward one school or one person but the program is available to a huge number of Kentuckians and is not the kind of special legislation that the constitution prohibits," explains Field.
Proponents argue the program is intended to benefit students and empower families to choose a school that’s best fit for them.
"All this program is trying to do and school choice programs like it is to provide the exact same opportunities too low and middle income families that wealthier families already have.
McKiernan Blanton says the tax credit program would harm public education because it would divert money by giving public funding to private schools.
Opponents noted that the tax credits will cost the state treasury $25 million annually.
"Any dollar that comes out of our taxes is public education fund money because that is where it could be going," explains McKiernan Blanton.
However, attorneys defending the measure says that the tax credits don’t directly come from the general fund.
"Doesn’t take a dime out of the public schools and it simply provides an alternative to families who want additional funds to supplement their public school education," adds Field.
The institute for Justice says the process to appeal will happen within the next few weeks.