Kentucky’s High Court can empower parental choice in education

Akia McNeary of Florence, Kentucky, pictured here with her middle school-aged son, is a strong advocate for expanded school choice opportunities for all families.

Editor’s note: This commentary from Colleen Hroncich, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, and Caleb O. Brown, host of the Cato Daily Podcast, appeared Monday on linknky.com.

Akia McNeary, a Kentucky mother of four, was disappointed when the so-called Council for Better Education filed a lawsuit to block Kentucky’s new Educational Opportunity Account program.

“Even within my own four children, I saw the need for multiple educational options,” she said. “If this group really wants better education in Kentucky, it should support letting lower income families access opportunities beyond their district schools.”

The EOA, the nation’s first tax-credit funded education savings account, will allow eligible parents to receive scholarship accounts that can be used for approved educational expenses, such as private school tuition, tutoring, classes and extracurricular activities at public schools, and higher education courses.

The accounts will be funded by donations from individuals and businesses who will receive tax credits for their donations.

Last fall, a circuit court judge sided with CBE and ruled the EOA unconstitutional. Kentucky’s Supreme Court agreed to try the case and held a hearing in Shelby County in October. The Institute for Justice is defending the program on behalf of McLeary and another parent.

The central issue in the case is whether the tax credit constitutes public funding of private school. If history is a guide, the answer to that question will be no. After all, there are nearly 30 tax credit scholarship programs throughout the country—as well as countless other tax credits and deductions at the state and federal levels.

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