Bill seeks referendum on school choice

Catholic Conference of Kentucky
voices support for House Bill 174

House Bill 174, the Students First Constitutional Amendment, aims to take the long-debated issue of school choice in Kentucky directly to voters.

Through a ballot referendum, the bill seeks to add a section to the constitution allowing the General Assembly to make provisions for students outside the public school system. Voters would choose to support or deny the amendment.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky, which represents the state’s bishops on public policy, supports the measure.

“Kentucky is the only state in the region that does not have a meaningful school choice program. The Students First Constitutional Amendment will allow the General Assembly to empower Kentucky parents to make the educational decisions that help their students achieve,” said Andrew Vandiver, associate director of the conference. 

Vandiver, who also serves as president of EdChoice Kentucky, has asked supporters of the amendment to contact their lawmakers and ask them to co-sponsor HB 174. By mid-February, the bill had more than 30 co-sponsors.

The Kentucky Supreme Court struck down school choice legislation in a Dec. 15 ruling, finding it violates the section of the Kentucky Constitution that prohibits the state to raise money for non-public schools.

The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support in 2021, would have provided state tax credits to individuals and businesses that help fund Education Opportunity Accounts for low-income students. The funds could be used for a variety of educational services, including tuition for Catholic and other non-public schools.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky has advocated for school choice for more than two decades. Vandiver said in a recent email to supporters about the bill: “If passed and approved by the voters, it would allow the Kentucky General Assembly to support all students, regardless of the school they attend.”

Marnie McAllister
Written By
Marnie McAllister
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