Spineless textbooks, missing roof tiles, and cut after-school programs are unfortunately common sights in the schools I went through — just some of the more noticeable indicators of our divestment in public education. Yet Kentucky schools are bracing for worse. In the final days of the legislative session, the General Assembly hastily passed House Bill 563. This legislation undermines the fundamental promise of Kentucky public schools: to provide equitable education to every student and community across the commonwealth.
Under the bill’s provisions, Kentucky students can attend schools outside of their assigned district, including private schools for the eight biggest counties. The funding associated with the student would follow them to their new school, creating stark equity disparities between schools. The bill also allows wealthy individuals to re-direct tax money meant to fund programs that benefit all Kentucky students into private slush funds that restrict benefits to certain individuals with little accountability or oversight.
Siphoning student funding from already-struggling schools would only further exacerbate existing divides between well and under-resourced schools. As a school’s students start to leave under HB 563, that school will lose their student-associated funding and be forced to reduce its investment into its students.
This will inevitably lead to cuts on spending for supplies, school activities, full-day Kindergarten, and even teachers. The results of this would be disastrous, leaving widening gaps between the wealthiest and poorest schools in Kentucky.
Wealthy students who have resources such as easy access to personal transportation, will attend other schools and congregate at those that are well-funded, leaving behind their less privileged peers in schools with crippling funding issues. Advocates for HB563 say that the bill will enable low-income students to afford private schools; however, private schools will still be difficult for these students to attend because they are not required to provide transportation to students. Even if a private school’s cost is comparable to that of a public school, the lack of bus transportation will continue to prohibit poor students from attending.