Scholarship tax credits expand school choice

As elected officials, we take very seriously the responsibility given to us by the people. Of all our obligations, nothing is more important than the education of our children and the management of taxpayer resources.

That’s why Republicans and Democrats in Frankfort are coming together to support an innovative school-choice program called scholarship tax credits.

House Bill 162 and Senate Bill 102 establish a scholarship tax credit program which allows individuals or businesses to receive a tax credit from state taxes when they contribute to qualified scholarship-granting organizations providing tuition assistance for low- and middle-income students attending non-public schools.

Developmentally disabled students would also be eligible to use the scholarships for either non-public school tuition or needed educational services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech-language therapy.

While there are many great public schools in Kentucky, not every school can meet the needs of every family. We need to provide families with the means to find the right school for each student. All too often, low- and middle-income families do not have the same educational options available to more affluent Kentuckians.

Our legislation empowers more Kentucky families to send their students to the school that is the best fit for them.

Recently, the Herald-Leader editorial board cited a study which claims our scholarship tax credit legislation is expensive. When one thoughtfully considers the full fiscal impact of HB162 and SB 102, it becomes clear our bill not only makes good education policy, but is also fiscally responsible.

In an audit of 10 scholarship tax credit programs, Martin Lueken of EdChoice in Indianapolis discovered that these types of programs have generated at least $1.7 billion in taxpayer savings. And, in “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice,” Greg Forster of EdChoice found that out of 28 fiscal analyses, 25 studies found school choice proposals save money. The other three studies found revenue neutral results.

Lueken also produced a fiscal analysis of our bills and found that if this proposal is enacted, it would have a positive net impact of nearly $900,000 to the state budget.

The cost cited by this paper ignores the fiscal impact of any benefits of a scholarship tax credit program, such as improved graduation rates, college readiness, or the real-life consequences for Kentucky families. The vast majority of independent empirical studies have found that scholarship tax credit programs improve academic outcomes for both public school and nonpublic school students.

A Northern Kentucky father recently testified before the House Education Committee that scholarships are essential to ensuring his daughter gets the education she needs. Because of a scholarship, a Louisville mother could have a voice in her daughters’ education and place them in an educational environment that they call their own community.

There are countless stories out there just like these two. Our legislation unlocks a world of opportunities for all Kentucky families.

On the same day the editorial was published, this same paper ran a story about how Kentucky students are “falling short in reaching college readiness standards in math,” and that this problem was worse among “black and low-income students.” Our proposal will help improve educational outcomes and put low-and middle-income students on an equal playing field.

The Herald-Leader asked, “Where’s the ambition for education?”

The ambition is all around. Parents, educators,= and legislators are working hard to find innovative solutions for all Kentucky students. This legislation is a direct result of our ambition to give each child the chance to be in the classroom that helps them learn. By establishing this program, we can put Kentucky on the path to being a leader in education.

House Education Committee Chairman Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville, represents the 51st District; Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, represents the 28th District.

At issue: Herald-Leader editorial, Where’s the ambition for education?