While the state of West Virginia, once a teachers’ union stronghold, has just passed into law the broadest school choice reform in the nation, the state of Kentucky has gone in a different direction.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has vetoed a school choice bill that would have given low- and middle-income parents in Kentucky more say in how their children are educated.
The bill would have established a $25 million tax credit fund to help parents defray the cost of sending their children to an out-of-district public school they prefer or a private school in one of Kentucky’s three biggest counties through Education Opportunity Scholarship Accounts. The EOAs would have been financed by donations from private businesses (which would, in turn, receive tax credits).
EdChoice Kentucky, which supported the plan, explained how EOAs would work:
Opponents of EOAs continue to blur the facts and use deception (calling private donations a form of vouchers, which is patently false) to stop the program.
EOAs are a direct investment in Kentucky students, including public school students. The program will be funded through private donations, not the public education budget. The tax credit for private donations will be offset from the general fund. This doesn’t cost our public school system a single dollar, despite misleading claims to the contrary.
EOAs are a direct investment in students, not lost revenue. The return on investment for a program that helps more students succeed will benefit KY for generations to come.
The bill would have meant no onerous increases of the taxpayer’s burden and more choice for families.
Looks like a win-win, right?
Not for the teachers’ unions. Reason’s Eric Boehm explains what happened next:
Kentucky’s public education establishment loudly complained about legislation that would have forced school districts to compete for students—and on Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear did their bidding.
Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed a school choice bill that would have allowed families to cross district lines in pursuit of better schools, with education dollars following students who decided to switch from one school to another. The bill would have also created a $25 million scholarship fund—to be filled by donations from private businesses, for which they would receive state tax credits—that students in Kentucky’s three largest counties could have tapped to help pay for private school tuition, while students elsewhere could have used the money to hire tutors or pay other educational expenses.
The bill would “greatly harm education in Kentucky,” Beshear said in a video statement announcing the veto, by “taking money away from public schools.” In other words, students in failing public schools should be forced to remain there so those institutions can continue to collect tax dollars—because that’s what is important, right?
. . .
Beshear, however, seems to have fully swallowed the education establishment’s vapid talking points. In his veto statement, the governor bemoaned how the school choice bill would send money to “unaccountable private organizations”—which is really quite unfair to the unaccountable public organizations that could be getting the funds instead.
Calling private schools unaccountable is ridiculous on its face. In order to stay in business, they have to attract students. Unlike public schools, they don’t get to take more money from taxpayers if they fail. Beshear knows this, of course, because he sent his own kids to private school—a decision that stirred a brief controversy during his successful 2018 run for governor.
Americans have had an eye-opening experience with the demands of the big education unions, the main impediment to safely and quickly reopening the nation’s schools.
West Virginia had been in the thrall of the unions for years, but it finally broke free, putting the interest of kids first. There is still a chance that Kentucky legislators can override the private school dad’s veto.
And of course the Kentucky governor sent his own kids to a private school.