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NKY Educators Join Fight Against Scholarship Tax Credit Bill

kentucky school superintendents
Tana Weingartner
Superintendents from 17 Northern Kentucky schools gathered Monday to oppose KY House Bill 205.

Superintendents from 17 Northern Kentucky school districts are speaking out in opposition to Kentucky House Bill 205, the "Scholarship Tax Credit" bill. The leaders say schools could lose millions of dollars if the bill is passed into law.

"If you have a child in public school, House Bill 205 is an attack on you and your child," says Campbell County Superintendent David Rust, speaking at a news conference organized by the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Education Services.

Educators across the Commonwealth spoke out against the bill Monday ahead of its planned hearing at a Tuesday committee meeting in Frankfurt.

As Kentucky Public Radio member station WKYU reports, the bill "would allow private citizens and businesses to support Scholarship Granting Organizations, or SGOs, and in return receive a nonrefundable state tax credit. The money given to the SGO would then be used to create scholarships for low-income families wanting to send their children to private schools."

The proposal is for a 95 percent tax credit. Member station WFPL says that means "any donor who gives $1,000 and claims the credit would reduce their final state tax bill by $950. This is a more significant tax break than an itemized charitable deduction, which reduces a donor’s taxable income."

"This measure is nothing more than a backdoor effort for private school vouchers that would certainly steer millions of dollars from our already strapped and underfunded public schools," Rust says.

Kentucky's constitution bans spending tax dollars on private schools, leading many to argue that a school voucher system would be unconstitutional.

School Choice Scholarships, a Louisville-based nonprofit that grants scholarships to low-income K-8 students to attend private school, supports the bill. Executive Director Heather Huddleston says HB 205 would enable the organization to offer more scholarships, reach more children and possibly expand to high school students.

Opponents - which number all of Kentucky's 173 public school superintendents, according to KY 120 United - point to an impact study done last year about a similar bill that concluded the state would lose $21 million in revenue in the first year.

Covington Independent Superintendent Alvin Garrison points to Senate Bill 1, the "School Safety Bill," which has been sent to Gov. Matt Bevin. He applauds the bill's measures but says it lacks funding to implement them. Likewise, he says, "At a time when school safety is on the minds of everyone associated with public education and funding is not available, a bill - House Bill 205 - that will reduce the revenue in the state of Kentucky by $25 million in the first year is unacceptable."