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BGISD and WCPS disagree on contentious school choice legislation

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 5:33 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Lawmakers are meeting in Frankfort Monday for their second-to-last day of the session. Among the 28 bills Governor Andy Beshear vetoed last week was House Bill 563 known as the School Choice Bill which passed in the Senate by one vote.

School teachers rallied outside the Capitol Monday morning in protest of the contentious bill. Warren County and Bowling Green Superintendents both have strikingly different opinions on the matter.

Warren County Superintendent Rob Clayton claims the bill would create concentrations of poverty.

“We can’t afford to create greater inequities under the disguise of creating school choice for our most vulnerable students. Fund the true cost of educating our kids & invest in Early Childhood,” Clayton said in a Tweet.

Bowling Green Superintendent Gary Fields says the legislation is needed to ensure every child and family is not left behind.

“We want to make it so that instead of both boards of education, deciding who can leave districts we want, once again, for parents to make that decision if they think it’s in their best interest,” expressed Fields.

In about 90 percent of districts that allow school choice, the board must approve the student, and funding does not follow those students to the district outside of their residency.

“In about 10% of the districts, that is not the case, parents and families cannot choose to go to certain districts based on non-resident agreements,” said Fields.

The bill also contains scholarship tax credits which leaders say gave the bill momentum to move forward in the House and Senate. Through this, an education opportunity account would be formed where donors would get tax credits for their donations. The funding can be used by families for school-related items for public and private schools.

“A tax credit you get 95 percent credit for it, which basically means that you don’t pay any taxes, you’re basically taking your tax money and giving it to that cause is what you’re doing. So I just don’t believe that we should do tax credits for anything that doesn’t involve job creation,” said Representative Steve Riley (R).

Many opposed to the bill are concerned with the additional funding it could provide for private schools.

“Private schools aren’t the enemy. We work very closely with our private schools, we actually give federal money to our private schools as required by law,” said Fields.

Clayton is concerned the bill would pull funding away from public schools. Meanwhile, Fields adds they have lost 90 kids to Warren County Public Schools over the past six years.

“Fewer students can come, obviously, you know, that means the list at the end of the lottery each spring, more people are getting called telling them they did not get a spot. It leads to a lot of anger and frustration for parents,” explained Fields.

Lawmakers are expected to discuss the possible override of Beshear’s veto today or tomorrow.

The House has voted to override Beshear’s veto on school choice with a 51-42 vote. The Senate now has to vote.

Representatives in the southcentral Kentucky viewing area voted against House Bill 563 which includes Patti Minter (D), Michael Meredith (R), Shawn McPherson (R), Bart Rowland (R), Steve Sheldon (R). Steve Riley (R) was unaccounted for due to a family emergency; however, he voted against the bill in mid-March.

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