Education leaders take stock of vetoed school choice bill

After Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed House Bill 563 – a school choice measure that would make it easier for students to attend out-of-district public schools and allow per-pupil funding to follow them – a local superintendent said he remains optimistic about the future of public school choice.

“It wasn’t unexpected,” Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Gary Fields said of the veto Beshear handed down Wednesday.

Still, Fields said his hopes were buoyed when he heard the governor and state Education Commissioner Jason Glass sympathize with independent school districts like Bowling Green’s, which Fields said are losing students because of unfair nonresident student agreements with larger, neighboring county school districts.

“I’m really encouraged to hear him and Commissioner Glass say that they recognize that public school choice is an issue that needs to be addressed,” Fields said.

For his part, Beshear said he’d be willing to work with stakeholders to find a solution to the problem.

“I want those superintendents and everyone going to school in those districts to know that I am willing, ready and able to work with everybody to find a solution,” he said. “But that solution is not taking away more than $25 million from public education in what will be the most significant attack on it and what will signal the end of public education as we know it.”

Under the measure, school districts would have to create nonresident policies for students and those students would count toward a district’s daily attendance figure, which helps determine school funding in Kentucky.

It would also create a form of scholarship tax credits – referred to by its advocates as education opportunity accounts. The accounts would be backed by private donors who would then be eligible for tax credits. The grants, managed by third-party groups, could be used for educational expenses and for public school tuition, according to the Associated Press.

The money also could go for private school tuition in several of the state’s most populated counties, including Warren County.

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