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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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School Choice and the Constitution11 Dec

Capitol DomeOne common concern with regard to school choice legislation is that it will violate the U.S. Constitution by enabling children to attend religiously affiliated schools.  While this concern is understandable, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected arguments that school choice legislation amounts to an unlawful entanglement between church and state.  Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court recently dismissed an attack on a tuition assistance tax credit similar to the one proposed under Kentucky House Bill 141.  Challenges to tax credits under state constitutions have met this same result and it is expected that the Kentucky Supreme Court would reach a similar conclusion.

Even though tax credits have been upheld under the U.S. Constitution, and state high courts have followed suit, there are still some who are skeptical of private school choice.  For many, this is based on the notion that the government should not take any actions which would enable a child to attend a religiously affiliated school.  However, there are a couple of facts that should be considered by individuals holding this viewpoint.

First and foremost, tuition assistance tax credits support school choice for parents rather than promoting religion.  The educational needs of children are of central importance.  Thus, while most children will do well within a public school setting, others unique needs require that their parents look elsewhere.  Whether the school that best meets their needs is religious or secular is secondary.  We know from extensive studies on the topic that school choice improves academic outcomes.  It is clear that when parents have the right to choose, children win.

Second, public assistance for religiously affiliated schools has a long history in the United States.   Unfortunately, this relationship was interrupted by a rise in nativism during the late 19th century.  Led by Senator James Blaine of Maine, there was a popular movement to amend the U.S. Constitution in order prohibit aid to religiously affiliated schools due to a fear that Catholic immigrants would want government funding for their parochial schools.  Of course, the supporters of this movement were not attempting to remove religion from education.  Nondenominational Protestantism would have remained securely entrenched in public education even if the amendment was successful.  The proposal was merely intended to marginalize Catholic education.  Although Senator Blaine’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful at the federal level, many states followed his lead and adopted constitutional prohibitions with regard to funding for “sectarian schools” (a/k/a Catholic schools). These amendments are commonly known as “Blaine Amendments.”  Fortunately, some courts have recently recognized this dark moment in our nation’s history for what it was and have not been inclined to strike down tuition assistance tax credit legislation.

In conclusion, there is neither a constitutional nor a historical basis for rejecting tuition assistance tax credit legislation.  Kentuckians are free to adopt this important legislation in order to ensure that all families have a choice when it comes to their children’s education.

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Attend a Catholics @ the Capitol Event in Your Area!30 Nov

UPDATE: The December 14 even in Edmonton is at 1:00 Central Time, not 2:00 as originally stated. The list below has been corrected.

As we prepare to begin the 2015 legislative session, each diocese will be hosting at least one Catholics @ the Capitol regional event. Each event is a chance to learn about CCK’s legislative agenda and to interact with local legislators, who are also invited to attend. Make plans today to attend one near you. Below is a complete schedule of events. All times are local.

December 2  -  7:00 pm  -  St. John the Apostle, 515 Broadway, Brandenburg

December 14  -  1:00 pm  -  Christ the Healer, 1610 W. Stockton St., Edmonton

January 10, 2015  -  9:30 am  -  Our Lady of Lourdes, 4029 Frederica St., Owensboro

January 10  -  10:00 am  -  St. Catharine College, Pettus Auditorium

January 14  -  4:00 pm  -  St. Raphael the Archangel, 2900 Bardstown Rd., Louisville

January 17  -  9:30 am  -  Sts. Peter & Paul, 902 E. Ninth St., Hopkinsville

January 24  -  9:00 am  -  Jesus Our Savior, 315 Battson Oates Drive, Morehead

January 24  -  1:00 pm  -  Sts. Francis & John, 604 E. Main St., Georgetown

January 31  -  9:30 am  -  Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium, Curia Office, 1125 Madison Ave., Covington

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Archdiocese of Louisville Expands School Choice13 Nov

KurtzSchoolChoiceDuring a press conference on November 6, 2014, the Archdiocese of Louisville announced its new Catholic elementary school plan which will effectively double the tuition aid available to families.  The goal is to expand the availability of Catholic education to those who might otherwise lack the financial means to pay full tuition.  This is great news and will serve to enhance educational opportunities for children living within the Archdiocese.  The benefits associated with a Catholic education are proven.

As noted by Archbishop Kurtz at the press conference, the expansion of tuition assistance within the Archdiocese is part of a larger plan for opening up educational opportunities for families across the Commonwealth.  The Catholic Conference of Kentucky is strengthening efforts to pass a statewide tuition assistance tax credit program.  The tax credit would encourage individuals and businesses to contribute to organizations which provide tuition assistance to families who desire to send their children to nonpublic schools.  Most importantly, similar programs in other states have improved educational outcomes and saved taxpayers’ money.

The Archdiocese of Louisville has taken an important step towards expanding educational opportunities for a substantial number of children.  However, there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to make school choice a reality for all families.  Please contact your elected officials and urge them to pass a tuition assistance tax credit.

Photo Credit: The Record newspaper

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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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