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Opposition to a Tuition Assistance Tax Credit23 Dec

ID-10069170Andrew Vandiver, Associate Director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, was recently interviewed by Gilbert Corsey of WDRB News with regard to the tuition assistance tax credit proposal.   The story also featured Jonathan Lowe, Director of Strategy for Jefferson County Public Schools.  Mr. Lowe stated that JCPS is opposed to the tax credit because it would take public funding away from public schools.  The report also noted that JCPS has hired a lobbying firm to oppose the legislation.  It appears that there is a misunderstanding on the part of JCPS as to how the tax credit would work.

The tax credit would not take away money from the public school system.  The tax credit would actually allow the public school system to spend more per student.  It is simple math.  The cost of public education goes up when there are more children in the public school system. The easiest way to demonstrate this point is by looking at the issue from a statewide perspective.  Catholic and other nonpublic schools are currently educating more than 70,000 students, saving Kentucky taxpayers approximately $700 million per school year, or $1.4 billion every budget biennium.  Imagine if the nonpublic schools stopped operating tomorrow and the Kentucky General Assembly had to find an additional $1.4 billion to fund public education due to the influx of new students.  This would cripple the public school system.

It should be clear that nonpublic schools are not adversaries of the public school system.  Instead, nonpublic schools provide an important service to the Commonwealth by sharing in the cost of educating Kentucky’s children.  Allowing more students to attend nonpublic schools via a tuition assistance tax credit would ultimately leave the public school system with more money.

Of course, focusing on funding misses the big picture.  The educational needs of children should be of central importance in this debate.  While some children will do well within a public school setting, others unique needs require that their parents look elsewhere.  Passing a tuition assistance tax credit would give thousands of Kentucky families the opportunity to enroll their children in schools that meet their unique needs.  Whether the school that best meets a particular child’s needs is public or nonpublic is secondary.  The achievement of children should trump all other considerations.

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