CCK urges a vote on school choice bill

Students rallied in support of school choice and a scholarship tax credit program at the Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Jan. 27. (Photo Special to The Record by Allegra Thatcher, the Messenger)

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky is hoping Kentucky Legislators will take a vote on House Bill 350, even if it’s voted down during the 2020 General Assembly.

The measure is supported by the CCK, the public policy arm of Kentucky’s bishops. HB 350 would establish tax credits for individuals and businesses that donate to organizations that award need-based tuition assistance for non-public schools.

Supporters, like the CCK, say the incentive will increase donations, thereby alleviating financial barriers to non-public schools — and giving parents more options for their children.

Andrew Vandiver, associate director of the CCK, says a “no vote” would be better than no vote.

“We’ve had this issue going since 2016. I think we’ve made a lot of progress — raising the profile of the issue, getting parents engaged,” said Vandiver in a March 3 phone interview.

“We’ve grown our support in the General Assembly, but we have not gotten to a vote. Without a vote, it’s very difficult to know where your legislators stand,” he said. “It’s very hard to move the issue if you don’t know where your legislator stands on the issue.”

So far this year, the bill has stalled in the Republican-controlled House. Vandiver said he believes it has the support of many Republicans and some Democrats. But many seem to lack the will to move it forward, he said.

Vandiver noted that last week he heard from a mother whose son is being bullied in a public school and has run out of educational options. She can’t afford a private school and is begging for help for her son. Her story is not unique.

Parents who testified on behalf of the issue in the past have cited bullying, special learning needs and unstable family situations as reasons for seeking private education.

“It’s really disappointing when people come up (to the Capitol) and talk about this and then there’s no action,” Vandiver said, noting that about 500 people have made the trip in support of HB 350. Several thousand others have reached out by email, postcard and phone calls, he said.

“I can’t accept that a legislator won’t take a stand for that because they might ruffle some feathers,” said Vandiver. “Sometimes in the political world people don’t want to take the tough road, but as advocates, we’ve got to call on them to do better than that.”

Vandiver added that the session ends on April 15 and that action must be taken on the bill in the next few weeks for it to get to a floor vote.

The CCK is calling on Catholics to reach out to their lawmakers and ask them to take a stand on the bill, even if they oppose it. Legislators can be reached at 1-800-372-7181.

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