House Bill 563 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Not that’s a new strategy for politicians. Often good ideas are combined with bad ideas to push those bad ideas through.
Why are the bad ideas bad? This one is bad because it is unhelpful, even detrimental, to middle- and low-income families.
House Bill 563, which is headed to the full House, would allow for the creation of education opportunity accounts. Low- and middle-income students, but not well-to-do students, who attend public schools could draw from these accounts. They would have a third-party manager and accept donations from anyone; donors would receive a tax credit.
This seems like a generous idea and a practical way to help those in need and support public education, which is a major factor in supporting our democracy.
But it’s attached to a measure that could hurt public education.
That measure states schools would have to create policies allowing students to attend schools outside their districts, allowing non-resident students to count toward the district’s daily attendance figures, which is key in calculating school funding in Kentucky.
This means those who can will likely leave smaller districts, which likely offer fewer opportunities, for larger, more wealthy districts. This builds already-successful districts and further damages districts that need more support.
Meanwhile, education opportunity accounts sound like a good idea, and might benefit some students, but offer the wealthy yet another tax break.
Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell said the bill is “another example of legislators sneaking in an unpopular issue disguised as something else.”
Kentucky Department of Education representative Chuck Truesdell said the measure poses an “existential threat” to some districts that could suffer enrollment losses.
Ballard County schools Superintendent Casey Allen said the measure would “lead to concentrations of high-need, vulnerable students” in some districts and schools. The result will “further amplify the issue of haves vs. have-nots in our state.”
This bill is a perfect example of the deceptive practices lawmakers often make use of for their own purposes. It’s also not in the best interest of public education in Kentucky.