FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that a controversial school choice measure is unconstitutional, agreeing with a lower court's ruling, according to a decision released Thursday.
House Bill 563, 2021's school choice bill, would create a tax-credit scholarship fund in Kentucky. That money could then be used to let kids go to schools other than their local public schools.
Parents in favor of school choice say it would take the financial burden off some families struggling to pay for other types of schools, but public education supporters believe the bill creates a voucher system that takes money away from already underfunded public schools.
A Franklin County district court judge ruled it unconstitutional. Attorney General Daniel Cameron then appealed that decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court, and the court heard arguments on the case back in October.
In the unanimous ruling, the court referenced part of the Kentucky Constitution that prohibits the state from raising funds for nonpublic schools.
In their opinion, the justices say the school choice program "puts the Commonwealth in the business of raising 'sums ... for education other than in common (public) schools.'"
"We're saddened that parents across the Commonwealth won’t be able to use the needs-based funding provided by Kentucky's Education Opportunity Account Program to expand learning opportunities for their children," said Attorney General Daniel Cameron in a statement. "Our office is committed to helping ensure the best educational opportunity for every child."
The Kentucky Democratic Party praised the decision, saying the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled against "the Republican attack on our public schools."
"The ruling also makes it clear Cameron doesn’t understand the Constitution and can't present a competent, coherent legal case," said Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge.
In a statement, the Family Foundation said the decision harms Kentucky families and students.
"This unprecedented ruling effectively says that all your money belongs to the government, even what you get to keep," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the Family Foundation in Kentucky.
Read the court's ruling below: