School Choice-Kentucky

School choice advocates rally at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. They are supporting legislation that would give tax credits to people who donate to scholarship funds for special-needs children or those in low-income homes to attend private schools.

(The Center Square) – Advocates for school choice criticized a lawsuit filed Monday in a Kentucky court that seeks to block a new law that allows families to use education opportunity accounts for their children’s schooling.

The lawsuit, according to media reports, was filed by the Council for Better Education. It’s the same group whose lawsuit against the state more than 30 years ago led to historic education reforms.

CBE believes the accounts provided by House Bill 563 are unconstitutional. It was created 37 years ago, and the nonprofit group has members representing 168 of the state’s 173 public school districts.

The bill, which narrowly passed the Republican-led General Assembly and similarly withstood a veto from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, would allow for businesses and individuals to receive credits for contributions made to account-granting organizations.

Those groups would then award funded accounts to eligible families, who could use the money to cover a variety of education-related needs. That includes tuition, tutoring services, school uniforms and technological needs.

For tuition, families would be able to use the money to send their child to another public school district. In counties with a population greater than 90,000, families could use the accounts to pay for tuition at private schools.

The tax credits would be capped at $25 million annually, with the program starting in July 2022.

When Beshear issued his veto, he said he considered the bill unconstitutional because it would divert money from public schools and give it to private groups. He said in March he expected a lawsuit if his veto was overridden.

Both EdChoice Kentucky and the Catholic Conference of Kentucky issued statements decrying the lawsuit.

EdChoice said 27 similar programs exist in 22 states and it plans to defend the law in court.

“Opponents have all claimed they are opposed to this legislation because it diverts taxpayer dollars to private schools,” it said in a statement. “First, that is simply not true - the program is funded by private donations and no public dollars are used. Second, the only taxpayer dollar diversion happening here is this: Some superintendents taking public dollars meant for education K-12 students and spending it on a lawsuit aimed at preventing students in need from getting the education opportunities they deserve.”

The Catholic Conference said in its statement it expects “the interests of parents” to overcome the legal challenge.

“The lawsuit filed today is an attempt to block thousands of parents from accessing the educational options that their children desperately need,” the CCK said.

After Kentucky lawmakers overrode Beshear’s veto, the Institute for Justice issued a statement that said it would defend the new law against a legal challenge.

Conor Beck, a communications project manager for the organization, told The Center Square Tuesday morning the group was planning to intervene in the case in the coming days.