Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday he would sign into law a controversial bill that would establish a scholarship tax credit program to benefit private schools if the legislation gets to his desk.
“Of course, absolutely, why wouldn’t you? That’s an absolute no-brainer,” Bevin said to reporters when asked whether he would sign House Bill 205 into law.
“Why wouldn’t we allow in this state somebody who wants to help a young person get the best possible chance in life and to be rewarded in some measure the person giving the money with a small tax break that the state could provide in order to help them facilitate a young person who has very limited means to be able to get the best quality education that they and their parent would have them have,” Bevin said. “I would sign that in a heart beat. I think it makes good sense.”
Bevin’s comments came a day after public school superintendents across the state held news conferences to oppose the legislation.
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They contend it would hurt funding for public schools and would be a back-door voucher system to steer millions of dollars from already underfunded public schools.
The bill would allow businesses and individuals to receive a tax credit for donating to a scholarship-granting organization. The organizations would then provide scholarships to low- and middle-income students across Kentucky.
If approved, the bill is expected to reduce state revenue by $7 million this fiscal year and up to $21 million in the first year it is fully implemented. Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler has said that would mean less dollars in the state treasury to support financially-strapped public schools.
The bill also is opposed by the KEA and the KY 120 United educator groups. They say it would give a tax break to private schools at the expense of public schools. Teachers in Fayette and Jefferson counties who held a sick-out Feb. 28 have said defeat of the bill is one of their main priorities.
Asked if the bill would hurt public education, Bevin, whose relationship with Kentucky teachers has been rocky, said “not even a little.
“Anyone who is worried about this hurting education thinks very poorly of something,” he said. “If you think that something that is good is hurt by something else that is good then you don’t really think the first thing is very good. Think about this.
The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee held a hearing for discussion only on the bill Tuesday morning.
An overflow crowd of advocates wearing red in support of public education and people wearing yellow in support of school choice attended the meeting.