The Kentucky General Assembly overturned a veto from Governor Andy Beshear to pass House Bill 563, which opened up the state to school choice. The bill passed the House by a vote of 51-42 and the Senate by a vote of 23-14 late on Monday, March 30.
Just two days earlier, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed House Bill 2013, establishing the Hope Scholarship Program, significantly broadening school choice in the state. The program is open to all K-12 students in the state, and it allocates an estimated $4,600 a year, per student, for those who withdraw from public schools and enter a private school or begin homeschooling, reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Though the two states took different routes, they both opened up more options for students. According to the Courier Journal, Kentucky’s new law:
- Requires school districts to create policies to allow students to switch districts and let funding follow them.
- Creates an education opportunity account program for a variety of education expenses and public school tuition in all counties.
- Allows EOAs to be used for private school tuition in Jefferson, Fayette and Kenton counties.
- Funds full-day kindergarten.
Ed Choice, “a national nonprofit organization that promotes state-based educational choice programs” supported the measure and commended “the Commonwealth of Kentucky for embracing educational opportunity with its first school choice program.”
The Courier Journal quoted Education Commissioner Jason Glass, who tweeted, “While disappointed, I respect the will of the General Assembly.” He said the state’s Department of Education “will work to implement and improve this new statute in an effort to best serve students in Kentucky.”
West Virginia’s new law gives students opportunities in a different way from Kentucky’s, implementing “the nation’s broadest nonpublic school vouchers program,” the Gazette-Mail said.
The paper explained, “Programs in other states are limited to low-income, special-needs or other subsets of students, or have caps on the number of recipients in general. But West Virginia’s program will be open to all K-12 students, including by offering public money to families who already don’t use the public school system.”
The Daily Citizen contacted Alan Whitt, president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia (FPCWV), an organization that advocates for marriage, religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. FPCWV is part of the network of Family Policy Councils affiliated with Focus on the Family.
Whitt said, “This amazing new law will be a game changer for parents who previously couldn’t afford anything other than the public school option. The law only passed because of the faith-friendly candidates recruited by the Family Policy Council. These champions gave West Virginia’s Christian families the best law of its kind in America.”
“Now our faith-focused parents may apply for the Hope Scholarship which gives $4,600 of their tax money per student, per year, back to the family so that it may be applied to private school tuition, virtual school, home school expenses or charter schools. There’s a sixty-month implementation phase-in for current private school students but new students and public school transfers are eligible starting fall of 2022,” Whitt told us.
The ACLU West Virginia sent a letter objecting to the legislation, reported The Christian Post. The organization wrote, “… if the proposed legislation were to be enacted, schools that discriminate for any other host of reasons – including sex, gender identity, disability, and religion – would be eligible to receive funding through the state via the Hope Scholarship accounts.”
ACLU-WV is essentially saying that schools with Christian beliefs and standards discriminate when they teach that there are only two sexes and when they ask students and teachers to live in line with God’s design for marriage and family.
As one of Focus on the Family’s foundational pillars states: “Marriage is intended by God to be a thriving, lifelong relationship between a man and a woman enduring through trials, sickness, financial crises and emotional stresses.”
“Public money should not be used to fund institutions that discriminate,” the ACLU-WV opined.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “Nearly 50 school-choice bills have been introduced this year in 30 states.” Focus on the Family has long been a proponent of parental rights in education, including offering families more education options. Legislation that broadens those choices for more students is something to celebrate.
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