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School Choice in Kentucky: Location, Location, Location03 Nov

A recent survey by the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors found that an overwhelming majority of Fayette ID-10069170County registered voters say that the quality of local schools is an important factor when choosing a home.  This is not surprising and the results would likely be the same throughout the Commonwealth.  Yet, one must wonder if this is the best way for parents to exercise their fundamental right to choose a school for their children.

Unfortunately, many lower income families are being priced out of a quality education.  This is because a family has to pay more for houses in highly rated school districts compared with homes in neighborhoods where the schools have lower ratings and test results.  The difference can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. While some parents have the financial means to purchase a home in a school district that meets their child’s needs, many do not.

We hear a great deal about inequality in our political debates.  However, these debates fail to focus on one of the greatest sources of inequality in our midst; namely, few parents are able to choose the school that best meets their child’s educational needs.  As previously discussed, this is not a problem that the Commonwealth can simply throw money at in order to make it go away.  The Kentucky General Assembly will need to think outside of the box.

A tuition assistance tax credit is a proven method for expanding school choice to all families regardless of their ZIP Code.  In Georgia, which has such a program, parents across the economic spectrum have been able to choose a nonpublic education when they were unsatisfied with the public school in their district.  One survey found that 98.6 percent of these parents were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the decision to send their children to a nonpublic school using a tuition assistance scholarship.

This begs the question: Why hasn’t Kentucky adopted a tuition assistance tax credit?

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