The Kentucky Supreme Court Thursday unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling that a school choice law was in violation of the state constitution.
The Education Opportunity Account Act, which was passed in 2021, created programs to enable school choice options and tuition assistance for Kentucky families. This was to be accomplished in a variety of needs-based ways – from financial aid to attend public schools outside of a family’s district, to tuition assistance for private schools in counties of over 90,000.
Additionally, tax credits would be available to account donors.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the bill, but was overridden.
The law, however, hasn’t been in effect since it was overturned by the Franklin Circuit Court in 2021. As noted by the Kentucky Supreme Court, the lower court found the law unconstitutional in part for violating a state constitutional provision “prohibiting the raising or collecting of any sum for education ‘other than in common [public] schools’ unless the taxation question is submitted to and approved by the voters.”
Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who had appealed the Franklin court decision, was disappointed with the outcome.
“We’re saddened that parents across the Commonwealth won’t be able to use the needs-based funding provided by Kentucky’s Education Opportunity Account Program to expand learning opportunities for their children,” Cameron said in a statement. “Our office is committed to helping ensure the best educational opportunity for every child.”
Others were pleased with the decision, including Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell, who labeled the decision “a victory for Kentucky’s public schools and public school students.”
Likewise, Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Eldridge praised the court for “slapp[ing] down Daniel Cameron, the Kentucky GOP, their partisan power grab and their attack on our public schools.”
David Osborne, Republican House Speaker, had a much different take, noting the vital cause behind the bill and pledging to keep fighting for parental empowerment and against union forces.
“Our priority with HB 563 was to ensure all Kentucky children have access to the educational opportunities they deserve and require to reach their potential, particularly in light of the learning loss and setbacks caused by shutdowns and limited access to necessary services,” Osborne said.
“While we are disappointed and respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision to strike down this section, we remain committed to this. We will continue our efforts to empower parents and families despite pushback from an education administration more interested in satisfying self-serving union interests.”