Advocates pitch school choice at capitol: ‘An opportunity to celebrate’

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

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School choice advocates celebrated school choice at the Kentucky Capitol Tuesday, despite a recent ruling from the Kentucky Supreme Court that advocates say took a hit to their hopes. 

“School choice week is an opportunity to celebrate all options — whether those are public, non-public, homeschool, or any other option that’s working for families,” said Andrew VanDiver, president of EdChoice Kentucky, of Boone County.

The group reiterated that they’re not against public schools but for finding the best option for families, and sometimes that means using a combination of private and public schools. 

“This is in no way an anti-public school sentiment,” VanDiver said. “It’s about finding the best option for every child.” 

The group hosts the press conference yearly at the capitol. This year was challenging for the group, according to Vandiver, who said they weren’t sure if they would hold this year’s event. 

In December, the Kentucky Supreme Court found a new tax credit scholarship program unconstitutional. Public school advocates celebrated the win. School choice advocates took it as a major loss.

“I think it is a win for our continued advocacy for strong public schools for all children throughout the state of Kentucky,” said Dayton Independent School Superintendent Jay Brewer.  

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 would give parents school choice, while opponents said that public schools are important because it gives students a chance regardless of their circumstances. 

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Gov. Andy Beshear has said the bill would violate the state constitution because it would allow public dollars to be used for private schools — the Supreme Court ruling also holds this point of view. 

“I think the constitution is very clear that public dollars have to go into the public school system,” Beshear said in December. 

After the ruling, VanDiver wasn’t sure there was much to celebrate this year, but the group said they’d continue to fight. 

“We’re still exercising choice even with the obstacles we face,” VanDiver said.

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