Should Kentucky adopt Scholarship Tax Credits?
A new poll commissioned by EdChoice KY says more than 60 percent of Kentuckians approve of scholarship tax credits.
EdChoice KY is a group made of educators, businessman and individuals who advocate for school choice. President Charles Leis says the most economic way to provide school choice in Kentucky is through Scholarship Tax Credits.
The poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates surveyed 600 likely voters from August 26th-August 30th. It finds more than 70 percent of voters believe Kentucky's education system needs significant changes and 62 percent support Scholarship Tax Credits. Divided into party lines, 69 percent of Independents, 56 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans were for the tax credits. Leis says the poll results show it is a statewide, bipartisan issue.
"When you look at the electorate it's kind of divided between the rural and the urban area, and that just simply was not true on these education issues, and particularly Scholarship Tax Credits," said Leis. "64 percent of rural voters favor Scholarship Tax Credits and in the urban areas, it was 61 percent. So overall it was that number 62."
One thing that the poll found was that while Kentuckians think the education system needed significant changes, the support for public teachers was high. More than 83 percent of respondents said they were supportive of the teachers.
"There is a clear distinction in our voters mind between the teachers themselves and the system of education." Leis said.
Scholarship Tax Credits incentivize businesses and individuals to donate money to a scholarship granting organization, or SGO, and in turn receive tax credits on their income tax. The money is then distributed on a need based system to students to attend schools of their choice. To receive the grants, a family must go through an application process, but there are special provisions for students with disabilities or in foster care.
Opponents of Scholarship Tax Credits say it will take money and resources away from public schools. Leis says that's not the case since no public money is used to fund the Scholarship Tax Credits. Leis says another common misconception, is that tax credits are the same thing as vouchers. He says vouchers use taxpayer dollars to fund, while tax credits are all funded through private money.
Leis says Scholarship Tax Credits not only allow low income students to have access to school choice, but it can actually save the state money because less money is allocated to pay for the child to attend public schools.
"The state is relieved of the burden of providing funds to those schools," Leis said. "The money doesn't follow the student, no public funds are used in this. They do save that money--or they increase the per pupil spending in schools. It's up to the legislators."
EdChoice KY will now work on presenting the poll results and consulting with lawmakers to get Scholarship Tax Credits passed during the 2019 session. With the poll numbers, Leis thinks the possibility is high.
"This is overwhelming support when you have rural, urban, you have all parties, ethnicities theres no difference, gender theres no difference," he said. "So across every demographic, it's extremely positive for it. So we are very, very pleased with the poll."