Op-ed: Court’s ruling: A disguised blessing

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Written by Jim Waters, president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions.

Whether, as many in Trump Nation assert, the former president’s indictment will backfire and actually boost his rerun for office remains, of course, to be seen. 

One thing’s for certain: the next few months will be filled with a potent combination of political and legal drama dominating the 24-hour cable news cycle. I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of this story. 

In the realm of Kentucky policy and politics, I’m just as certain the effort to bring educational liberty to commonwealth’s families is far from over. 

Just because the state Supreme Court deemed omnibus legislation passed in 2021 creating education opportunity accounts – which some students could have used to cover nonpublic school tuition – unconstitutional isn’t the end of this story. 

I’m hopeful the decision will backfire in this sense: the court indicated as part of its ruling that the only way to have school choice in our commonwealth is by amending Kentucky’s constitution. 

School choice opponents view the ruling as making it harder to bring educational liberty to Kentucky. 

Getting the issue on the ballot, educating the citizenry and developing effective messaging that overcomes opponents’ fearmongering is certainly a formidable challenge. 

It’s also understandable that school choice supporters see the fact that Rep. Josh Calloway’s House Bill 174 didn’t get passed by this year’s legislature as a troublesome delay. 

But delay is not necessarily denial; in fact, could it be a disguised blessing? 

Even if the legislature had passed HB 174 this year, it couldn’t have gone on the ballot until next year; constitutional amendments can only be presented in even-numbered years when House members are elected.

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Ultimately, the cause of educational freedom was still moving forward this year with votes likely to make it more difficult for teachers’ unions to stop school choice and other needed reforms. 

Senate Bill 7 prohibits school districts from automatically deducting union dues and political contributions and sending those dollars to the unions. Now, unions must collect dues from each individual member. 

Also, Senate Bill 3 provides the go-ahead for the state to fund liability coverage in next year’s budget, providing a service which teachers previously secured through unions. 

Passage of these bills could reduce the incentive for paying union dues.

I told reporter Steve Bittenbender at The Center Square that the court’s ruling represented a “temporary delay” which is actually “the beginning of educational freedom in the commonwealth.” 

Considering the bill struck down by the Supreme Court was limited, legislators and the voters can now clear the roadway for Kentucky to move from the back of the nation to the front of the line with a multitude of school choice programs, giving many families access to a better education and brighter future. 

Along with finding a strong legislative champion in Calloway, another indication the Supreme Court elbowing the legislature is backfiring lies in the fact that HB 174 had more cosponsors than any school-choice proposal in Kentucky’s history. 

Other bills – many of which didn’t move much beyond being introduced this year – hold great promise for future reforms, considering the most-impactful policies often take years to finally become law. 

Included among these bill are proposals to: 

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Like right-to-work, school choice, tax and pension reforms in previous years, the seeds of these policies have been planted and now must be nourished and grown with the result being  a freer, more prosperous commonwealth for future generations. 

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