Kentucky tax dollars should not fund private schools

Jeff Neal

The No. 1 priority for our state lawmakers -- and for our governor -- should be to build a solid foundation for the future of Kentucky.

To accomplish this, we must invest in our young people -- and their education.

That's why Gov. Matt Bevin's attacks on educators and his unwavering support of charter and private schools are so maddening.

The good news emanating from Frankfort indicates that House Bill 205 -- a bill that would deflect millions of dollars away from public schools and toward private schools -- doesn't have the votes to pass.

That's encouraging. That indicates we still have some bright folks who support public education in Kentucky.

But Bevin is doing his best to stir the pot and influence Republican legislators to get behind the bill. He told the Courier-Journal on Tuesday that he'd "sign the bill in a heart beat."

Essentially, the bill would offer Kentuckians tax breaks in exchange for donations to private school scholarship programs.

The Legislative Research Committee has estimated the program could cost the state up to $50 million by its fourth year of implementation. And this coming at a time where public education is struggling for funding anyway.

Several proponents of the bill are arguing that as more people opt to send their children to private schools, it would result in less students the state is responsible for educating.

But that's hogwash. Each school district has fixed costs that won't be affected if a few students leave -- costs like utility bills or fuel for their bus fleets.

Our educational tax dollars should be used to make public education in this state as strong as it can possibly be. We need to have the best programs we can have and the best educators for our children.

If you want to send your child to a private school, that's your choice. But not everyone can afford to do that. That's why we have public education that is all inclusive.

You should not get any kind of a tax break for choosing to opt out of public schools. Period.

"Our No. 1 job in this state is to take care of our kids -- all kids," said Jay Brewer, superintendent for Dayton Independent Schools in Northern Kentucky. "And I believe that as publicly elected officials, your greatest responsibility is to our public schools."

Precisely.

Our State Constitution mandates proper funding for public education. Lawmakers need to focus on reaching that goal.

Let's leave private school funding where it belongs -- in the hands of private donors.

JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.