‘Public school dollars have to go to public schools’: Beshear backs charter school lawsuit

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday he supports a lawsuit filed against House Bill 9 — the charter school bill that creates a funding mechanism and will bring a pilot charter school to Northern Kentucky and Louisville. 

Speaking at his Thursday press conference, Beshear spoke in favor of the lawsuit filed last Friday in Franklin County Circuit Court by The Council for Better Education, Dayton Independent Board of Education, and Jefferson County Board of Education. 

The lawsuit seeks to block the implementation of the charter school law. Public school advocates in Northern Kentucky have questioned the constitutionality of HB 9.

“I support the lawsuit,” Beshear said. “The charter school bill is unconstitutional, and the Kentucky Supreme Court’s recent opinion couldn’t be clearer — public dollars have to go to public schools.”

The recent Supreme Court decision deemed a different school tax credit law unconstitutional because the law would give public school dollars to private schools, such as charter schools. 

The tax credit scholarship program — or education opportunity accounts — passed the legislature in 2021 as House Bill 563 and would give tax credits from the state to donors who donated to scholarship-awarding organizations. 

The scholarship money would then be given to disadvantaged students to attend private or charter schools. 

Proponents of the program said it gives parents school choice, while opponents said that the common schools are important because it gives students a chance regardless of their circumstances. 

The precedent for that decision is based on the idea of equitable common schools made in a 1989 decisionRose v. Council for Better Education — by the Kentucky Supreme Court that found inequity in Kentucky’s public school system and that the General Assembly must “provide an efficient system of common schools throughout the state.” 

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“Dayton Independent Schools has a proud and rich history dating back to the 1990s in advocating for public schools in the famous Rose vs. Council for Better Education case,” said Dayton Superintendent Jay Brewer on the Dayton Board of Education’s involvement in the lawsuit. 

Beshear said the precedent made in the Supreme Court’s decision over the education opportunity accounts — that public money should go to public schools — should also apply to the decision involving the lawsuit filed over House Bill 9. 

“I believe that that precedent will be applied or should be applied,” Beshear said. “And I believe that it was clear enough that the Supreme Court will apply.” 

In addition to the ruling against the education opportunity accounts, public school advocates in Northern Kentucky got another win late last year. The first was when Northern Kentucky University declined to take action on whether it would be an authorizer for the school in NKY — something the university didn’t even know it was involved with in the first place. 

If groups are unsatisfied with the public school system, they shouldn’t be trying to siphon dollars off the school system, Beshear said. Instead, he thinks organizations should be working with the public school system. 

“I worry that a lot of this comes down to dollars, and it’s merely an effort to send dollars that go to public education to private corporations,” Beshear said. “That’s wrong.” 

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