Kentucky bishops applaud passage of school choice bill

Kentucky state capitol building / RozenskiP/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2021 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Kentucky lawmakers voted Monday evening to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of school choice legislation.

Both the state’s House and Senate voted to override Beshear’s veto of House Bill 563, which would use tax credits to fund vouchers for students in some of Kentucky’s largest counties to attend private schools.

The legislature narrowly passed the school choice bill before the veto, but additional lawmakers voted in support of the bill after it was vetoed.

In a joint statement, Kentucky’s Catholic bishops – Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Bishop Roger Foys of Covington, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, and Bishop John Stowe of Lexington – applauded the state legislature for approving the legislation.

“And, because of other forms of assistance in HB 563 that benefit children in public and non-public schools, it will serve students in need throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Supporters of the bill said it would broaden opportunities for lower-income students, while opponents argued it would take funding away from public schools.

Beshear wrote on Twitter that “I will always defend our educators and the children of Kentucky.”

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky supported the legislation. Andrew Vandiver, the group’s associate director, told CNA in an interview that “this bill would bring educational choice to Kentucky for the first time ever.”

“We’re going to go from having no programs to one of the most expansive programs in the country,” Vandiver said.

Vandiver said that over the last year, school choice shifted “from something parents wanted to something they demanded.”

“This is something that’s been popular for years but the pandemic made the disparities so much more apparent,” he said. “If you’re a well-off family, you could afford to send your child to private schools with in-person learning, or you could pay for tutoring or other services for your child. But lower income families were hit the hardest by this.”

The bishops said that Kentucky “now joins the majority of states in the nation that have some form of educational choice available to families.”

“There are countless stories of students whose lives have been changed for the better by the simple act of giving them the same choices already enjoyed by wealthy families,” they said. “We are very grateful that Kentucky families in need now have more opportunities to benefit because of HB 563.”

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