(The Center Square) — The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to take up a school choice law a Franklin Circuit Court judge ruled unconstitutional.
Last October, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd tossed out House Bill 563, which Kentucky lawmakers passed over Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto last year.
The bill created a tax credit program set at $25 million annually for five years. Individuals and businesses could receive credits for contributions they made to account-granting organizations (AGOs).
Those AGOs would then provide education opportunity accounts to qualified families. Households receiving funding could then apply it toward a variety of educational purposes. That included tuition at out-of-district public schools, and families in counties with 90,000 or more people could use the accounts to pay for private school costs.
Shepherd said in his ruling that “the legal voters” of Kentucky would need to approve such a program because of how tax dollars would be used. He also said the limitation on private schools by population was unconstitutional.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron asked the Supreme Court to hear the case a month later, bypassing the state’s Court of Appeals.
A message to Cameron’s office was not immediately returned.
The Supreme Court said a date for the oral arguments will be set in a future order.
The Council for Better Education filed the lawsuit along with two Kentucky school boards and parents of public school students. They claimed the new law would take away essential funding for public schools.
Two families represented by the Institute for Justice are also involved in the suit, arguing that the new law would give them the freedom to choose the best educational opportunities for their kids.
EdChoice Kentucky, which supported the bill in the General Assembly, said the supreme court’s announcement puts Kentucky one step closer to offering families what dozens of other states currently offer families.
“Kentucky families are eagerly awaiting the final go-ahead that they can receive the resources and flexibility needed for their children to succeed,” EdChoice Kentucky President Andrew Vandiver said in a statement. “Kentucky legislators boldly stood for students in 2021 when they passed this law, and every state supreme court that has considered a similar system has ultimately sided with parents who want a say in their children’s education.”
While the supreme court will hear arguments on House Bill 563, Republican lawmakers have filed new school choice bills in this year’s session. Those bills call for expanding the amount of the tax credits available, increasing eligibility for accounts and allowing families in all counties to use the funding for private schooling.