FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Once again, the school choice bill in Frankfort is causing a lot of tension.
House Bill 563 creates open enrollment policies for public schools and education opportunity accounts.
Normally, public education supporters and school choice supporters are on opposite ends of this debate. That still holds true. But this year, they're both unhappy with the current school choice bill for different reasons.
Public education supporters believe the bill creates a voucher system that takes money away from already underfunded public schools.
"So-called “education opportunity accounts” are just another term for private-school vouchers," said KEA President Eddie Campbell. "This is another example of legislators sneaking in an unpopular issue disguised as something else, just like the infamous ‘sewer’ bill in 2018."
Supporters who want school choice in Kentucky are also unhappy with the bill. The problem for them is that bill does not allow the scholarship fund to be used for private school tuition.
"Now, we're back to a very narrow and tight application, which is essentially back to having no choice. There's no way for a child to really have a choice," said EdChoice Kentucky President Charles Leis.
The bill's sponsor says private schools were taken out of the scholarship fund in attempt to help the bill get passed.
"One of the biggest complaints we heard, and it was this false narrative, is that 'oh this bill is just to allow rich people to pay for their kids private education.' So, I'm like - well, stop. First of all, that was never true. But if it's going to get this bill across the finish line, I'll pull private schools out," said Rep. Chad McCoy. "I don't like that. I want private schools in there. I want everybody to have an opportunity for parents to make those decisions. But if this is what it's going to take, let's put it in place. Let's let it work for the public schools. Let them see that the world doesn't end. That this is a good way to help parents. And then maybe we come back in a few years and we can add that in."
After three hours of debate on the House floor, the school choice bill passed on a 51-45 vote. The bill was also amended on the floor to include private school tuition for students in Fayette, Jefferson and Kenton counties.
Private school tuition for other counties is still not included in the bill.
The bill now heads to the Senate.