More children could attend private schools under Kentucky legislation

Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville.
Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville. Legislative Research Commission.

Individuals and businesses could increase financial assistance for children to attend private schools with a Scholarship Tax Credit Program under a bill discussed Tuesday by the House Education Committee.

Under the school choice program in House Bill 162, individuals and businesses would donate to scholarship granting organizations and in return receive a nonrefundable tax credit. The organizations would award needs-based scholarships for public school students to attend a nonpublic school.

No vote was taken Tuesday on the bill, which is sponsored by House Education chairman John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville.

“I am hopeful we will act to put Kentucky students first by joining the 17 other states that have this type of program,” Carney said in a statement. “This bill will help students across the board.”

The program would be reserved for low- and middle-income students and disabled students.

Scholarships could not be awarded for any costs or fees associated with athletics or extracurricular activities.

The estimated cost to the state in 2018-2019 would be $25 million — increasing to more than $76 million in 2023-2024, according to a financial note attached to the bill.

Senate Bill 102 is a companion bill in the state Senate, introduced by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester.

“Too often families cannot afford the education that fits their child’s needs. A Scholarship Tax Credit program will help remedy that,” Alvarado said in a statement.

Andrew Vandiver, associate director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, spoke in favor of the bills.

“In Kentucky, wealthy families already have the opportunity to send their children to the school that best meets their needs,” Vandiver said. “House Bill 162 expands educational opportunities and puts low- and middle-income families on an equal playing field.”

The Kentucky Education Association, an educator’s group, is against the legislation, president Stephanie Winkler told the Herald-Leader Tuesday.

“We’re opposed,” Winkler said. “We think they are just a moneymaker for corporations. It cuts already much-needed public funds and sends them to people who send their kids to private schools.”

Winkler said the primary responsibility of the General Assembly is making sure that public schools are “ stellar.” Lawmakers “should be putting every dollar toward that,” Winkler said, and “not taking money away.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears