FRANKFORT, Ky. — As lawmakers signed off on a controversial school choice bill Monday, protesters on both sides of the issue rallied outside the Kentucky State Capitol.
What You Need To Know
- Protesters on both sides of controversial school choice bill rally at the Kentucky State Capitol
- HB 563 provides a $25 million tax break each year for people who donate to “education opportunity accounts,” where private organizations give out grants to help families pay for school expenses
- Some opponents say it'll lead to less money going to public schools, while supporters say low-income parents need help sending their kids to schools that better fit their needs
- Lawmakers in both the House and Senate voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the bill Monday
Legislators making their way to the rotunda for the second-to-last day of session were greeted with dueling chants of “vote school choice!” or “public money for public schools!” over House Bill 563. The proposal provides a $25 million tax break each year for people who donate to “education opportunity accounts,” where private organizations give out grants to help families pay for school expenses.
The EOA money can be used for private schools in counties with a population greater than 90,000 people: Jefferson, Fayette, Kenton, Boone, Warren, Hardin, Daviess, and Campbell counties.
Opponents like Ivonne Rovira with the group Save Our Schools Kentucky say it’ll lead to less money going to public schools.
“We already have more tax write-offs than we take in. Do we want to get more lopsided?” Rovira said.
The Jefferson County Teachers Association led a caravan of cars to drive around the Capitol to oppose House Bill 563.
Union president Brent McKim says the $25 million can be better spent.
“At a time when we do not have money for text books, we don’t have money for professional development for teachers, we do somehow have $25 million dollars to give away in tax breaks for private schools,” McKim said. “That makes no sense and it tells you we have the wrong priorities.”
Several parents, organized by the group Ed Choice Kentucky, rallied to support the bill. Andrew Vandiver with Ed Choice Kentucky says low-income parents need help sending their kids to schools that better fit their needs.
“Kids deserve choice, families deserve choice, and we don’t have that in Kentucky right now,” Vandiver said. “House Bill 563 would break new ground by, for the first time, having a program that gives low-income families a choice in where their kids go.”
House Bill 563 is different from school vouchers, where state funding would follow the student even if they choose to go to a private school. Republican supporters of the bill say it doesn’t divert money from public education and is only meant for lower-to-middle class families.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the bill Monday. Several Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill, but it got the 51 votes it needed to clear the House override threshold after not meeting that mark when it initially passed March 16.
The bill also requires public school districts to accept out-of-district students unless they’re at capacity.