Senate advances bill allowing education opportunity accounts

The Kentucky Senate passed a far-reaching bill Tuesday making it easier for students to cross district lines to attend school and allowing funding pools to help pay for educational expenses.

The Senate made a key change to expand the potential use of tax credit scholarships for private school tuition before voting 21-15 to return the measure to the House for a potential final vote.

Republican lawmakers supporting the bill faced a Tuesday deadline to send it to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and preserve the opportunity to override a potential veto. Lawmakers start an extended break Wednesday before returning for a two-day wrap-up session at the end of March.

The bill would allow for the creation of education opportunity accounts, backed by private donations. Donors would be eligible for tax credits. The grants, managed by third-party groups, could be used for a variety of educational expenses and for public school tuition.

The House-passed version limited use of the money for private school tuition to three urban counties — Jefferson, Fayette and Kenton. The Senate expanded the private school tuition option to five more counties — Boone, Hardin, Davies, Warren and Campbell.

Opponents said that shows the underlying goal of the bill’s advocates to eventually expand the tax credit program and broaden the use of account funds to support private school tuition.

Supporters said the goal is to funnel the money to families lacking the financial means to seek other schooling options.

“These opportunities are going to be awarded to families that most need them that want the best for their children,” said Republican Sen. David Givens.

Opponents warned the accounts would drain money from public schools. The Kentucky Education Association, representing tens of thousands of educators, put its political weight against the bill.

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