FRANKFORT, Ky.—The Kentucky Supreme Court issued a decision today that strikes down the state’s bold new school choice program. The Court held that the tax credits granted to individuals who would donate to the scholarship organization violated section 184 of the state’s constitution, which bars raising or collecting money for nonpublic schools without first holding a voter referendum. The Institute for Justice (IJ), which represented parents in defending the program, argued that tax credits for charitable donations are not the same as the government collecting taxes and spending money.
“We’re disappointed that the Kentucky Supreme Court adopted arguments rejected by virtually every other high court to consider them, including the U.S. Supreme Court,” said IJ Attorney Joshua House. “I think Kentuckians would be shocked to learn that their private donations are treated as government money, especially when that conclusion will take away educational options from lower-income families across the Commonwealth—options already available to their more affluent neighbors.”
The Kentucky General Assembly created the Education Opportunity Account Program to be funded entirely by private donations and available to families earning up to 175% of the income cap for reduced-price lunch. Eligible families would have received Education Opportunity Accounts—accounts that they could use for a wide array of educational expenses, including tutoring services, online learning programs, classes or extracurricular activities provided by a public school, and tuition for dual-credit college courses. Families in counties with 90,000 or more residents could also have used their accounts to pay for private school tuition.
“It’s frustrating that the Court stood in the way of a program that offered hope to my family and so many others,” said Akia McNeary, one of the parents who defended the program. “Public schools do not meet the needs of all Kentucky children, including my own, and I hope that the Kentucky Legislature finds a new way to give families the educational options they need.”