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House Bill 141 – A Win For Everyone09 Mar

 

Rep. Mills

House Bill 141 sponsored by Rep. Terry Mills and Rep. David Floyd is a unique opportunity to help parents exercise their right to choose an educational environment appropriate for their children. It will also benefit all elementary and high school students in Kentucky. But, without your help, it will receive little attention in this session of the General Assembly. Please contact your member of the House of Representatives and encourage support for HB 141. Ask legislators to co-sponsor the bill by calling 1.800.372.7181 and leaving him or her a message.

When passed, businesses could contribute money to either a 501(c)3 tuition assistance organization or to an educational improvement organization and receive a tax credit to offset their state tax liability. Tuition assistance organizations would then provide tuition assistance to children attending non-public schools; and the educational improvement organization operated by the State Department of Education could determine how to use its funds to provide for the needs of public school students. The legislation caps the tax credits at $50 million allowing for a total of $100 million being available to help students; $70 million would flow to support public education; and the remaining $30 million is available for scholarships for students whose parents have chosen non-public schools for their education.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2229) teaches the following:

  • Parents have the right to choose a school for their children which corresponds to their own personal convictions.
  • This right is fundamental; and
  • Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring concrete conditions for its exercise.

In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (#72) our U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have written:

Government, through such means as tax credits and publicly funded scholarships, should help provide resources for parents, especially those of modest means, to exercise this basic right without discrimination.

The passage of HB 141 would help lower- and middle-income families afford tuition for their children. It would provide the needed financial support that allows these parents the opportunity to choose an educational setting most appropriate for their children. It would also encourage the business community to lend support to BOTH public and non-public education by encouraging donations that improve the quality of schools for all students.

Without the funding that HB 141 would make available more and more nonpublic schools will close. The enrollment loss due to rising costs in the last decade is approaching 20,000 students. This loss of nonpublic schools is harmful to the public system – leading to overcrowded classrooms and increasing the need for even more public funding for education, an obligation Kentucky already struggles to meet.

Kentucky taxpayers pay more than $9,000 for each student attending a public school. Catholic and other nonpublic schools are currently educating more than 70,000 students, saving Kentucky taxpayers $700 million per school year, or $1.4 billion every budget biennium. Imagine legislators trying to find an additional $1.4 billion to fund public education.

Enacting HB 141 is not only the right thing to do because government should be helping provide resources for parents of modest means to have the chance to choose the right educational setting for their children. It is the right thing to do because it promotes the common good by giving all students an opportunity for a better education experience.

Photo: Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

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