Kentucky’s Education Opportunity Account Program took a step forward last week.
The state’s Department of Revenue is now accepting applications from potential account-granting organizations — groups that will award financial assistance, such as tuition aid or other grants to students in need. This is the first step in creating the program.
Commonly referred to as school choice, the program creates accounts for students with certain demonstrated needs, and funds may be added to the accounts for educational purposes.
Organizations that can add funds to those accounts (called account-granting organizations or AGOs) must be approved by the Kentucky Department of Revenue. The department has 60 days to approve or deny an application.
Once organizations have approval, the next steps can be put into place. For example:
- Donors would be able to contribute to those organizations and receive a tax credit for a contribution.
- Qualifying families would be able to apply for grants and tuition assistance.
Exactly when or how these next steps will come to fruition remains to be seen.
The program was approved by the state legislature last spring and is supported by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.
Andrew Vandiver, the associate director of the conference, praised the Department of Revenue for opening the application process.
“They did a really good job doing this in a timely manner,” said Vandiver. “What they did is really going to benefit families.”
He noted that families in need of tuition assistance for next school year can’t wait until the last minute to begin the planning process.
“This is an urgent need for families. They need to make plans now. They can’t be sitting there making plans for where their kids are going to school in August.”
In the Archdiocese of Louisville, the Catholic Education Foundation is applying to be an AGO.
“We are working feverishly to file the application. We intend to be an AGO qualified organization,” said Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the foundation. “Because we already have this infrastructure in place, awarding tuition assistance to over 3,000 kids already, we are going to be the largest AGO in the state.”
He said that the CEF will be a good steward of the funds because it already has the necessary infrastructure in place.
He noted that AGOs cannot use more than 10 percent of contributions for administrative costs, but because the CEF already does this work and can use its existing staff and application process, the cost to operate the Education Opportunity Account Program at the CEF will be much less.
“So our savings will be plowed right back into the program,” he said.
The CEF expects the program to be a success for families and donors when it gets off the ground, he said.
“We’ve had over 200 conversations with donors already. We’re creating a lot of enthusiasm from our donor base,” he said. “Hopefully before the end of the calendar year, the opportunity to donate or apply to donate will be approved by the state. Then the money can flow from the donor to the AGO. That will be available for distribution for the 2022 to 2023 school year.
“We’ve got to get approved, raise as much money as we can and, third, educate parents as much as we can about what this will mean to them.”
Parents who are interested in learning more, may visit the parent page at EducateKy.com. The page offers a sign-up to receive updates as they’re available.
As the program rolls out, it faces a legal challenge in the courts. A hearing on the case is scheduled for today, Sept. 16.