Ky. superintendents voice opposition to private school tax credits

Published: Mar. 4, 2019 at 4:43 PM EST
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Many Kentucky superintendents are speaking against a House bill which would provide up to $25 million in tax credits for private school scholarships.

House Bill 205, filed by House Floor Leader Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville, would allow donors to receive a 95 percent tax credit for donations toward scholarships. Students who are from households making less than 200 percent of reduced price lunch income guidelines would be eligible for the scholarships.

Many Republican leaders have supported this kind of program, including House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, who is also sponsoring the bill. First lady Glenna Bevin wrote a Friday op-ed, saying school choice already exists but is only available to the wealthy.

Opponents argue the bill takes potential funding for cash-strapped public schools, and students leaving the districts won't help save money. They also argue the bill violates Kentucky's constitution because it allocates government educational funds toward religious private schools.

On Monday Superintendents from across Kentucky held a press conference in Lexington where they gave their fears and thoughts to the potential bill.

“We certainly believe that we need every dollar we can get to serve our students,” said Woodford County Superintendent Scott Hawkins.

Hawkins, who spoke representing the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, says all 173 superintendents in the state say this is the wrong answer for public education in Kentucky.

Some superintendents are also arguing for funding to go toward a currently unfunded school safety bill which passed the Legislature.

Hawkins say this could also impact several regions within the state in their quest for economic development, citing less money means less growth in Kentucky counties.

“Anything that takes away from a school district’s ability to provide the greatest opportunities possible to our students impacts in a negative way economic development across the state.”

The association says they are not attacking private schools but only ensuring public education can steer away from being underfunded.

“This is not opposition to school choice,” Hawkins said. “This is however an argument that our schools are woefully underfunded.”

Lawmakers saw a similar bill last session that would have allowed the state to giveaway $25 million in tax credits. It was shot down in the midst of the session.

The review of House Bill 205 will continue on Tuesday in Frankfort.

Eighteen other states have similar scholarship tax credit programs in place.