School Choice

Kentucky Governor Caves to Special Interests, Vetoes School Choice Bill

Gov. Andy Beshear blocked a bill that would have allowed families to cross district lines in pursuit of better schools.


Kentucky's public education establishment loudly complained about legislation that would have forced school districts to compete for students—and on Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear did their bidding.

Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed a school choice bill that would have allowed families to cross district lines in pursuit of better schools, with education dollars following students who decided to switch from one school to another. The bill would have also created a $25 million scholarship fund—to be filled by donations from private businesses, for which they would receive state tax credits—that students in Kentucky's three largest counties could have tapped to help pay for private school tuition, while students elsewhere could have used the money to hire tutors or pay other educational expenses.

The bill would "greatly harm education in Kentucky," Beshear said in a video statement announcing the veto, by "taking money away from public schools." In other words, students in failing public schools should be forced to remain there so those institutions can continue to collect tax dollars—because that's what is important, right?

It is important to one group of people: the public school superintendents who demanded on Tuesday that Beshear veto the bill. "We believe in choice, and we're willing to have that conversation," said Marty Pollio, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, which includes the city of Louisville. "It needs to be done right, and we need to fully fund public education before we set aside $25 million for private school scholarship tax credits."

This is the game that the public school establishment plays when it comes to school choice. Sure, they "believe" in choice, but the "conversation" always has to wait for another day. And what, exactly, does "fully fund public education" even mean? Kentucky taxpayers already spend more than $14,000 per pupil. What's the proper price tag?

Beshear, however, seems to have fully swallowed the education establishment's vapid talking points. In his veto statement, the governor bemoaned how the school choice bill would send money to "unaccountable private organizations"—which is really quite unfair to the unaccountable public organizations that could be getting the funds instead.

Calling private schools unaccountable is ridiculous on its face. In order to stay in business, they have to attract students. Unlike public schools, they don't get to take more money from taxpayers if they fail. Beshear knows this, of course, because he sent his own kids to private school—a decision that stirred a brief controversy during his successful 2018 run for governor.

But it wasn't an irresponsible decision that caused Beshear's hard-earned money to fall into the hands of unaccountable private organizations. It was a decision he made, as a parent, to give his kids the best chance to succeed in life.

Poorer families in Kentucky apparently don't deserve the right to make that same choice.

"For too long, families in Kentucky who aren't wealthy have been left with no choice when it comes to education," Charles Leis, president of EdChoice Kentucky, which supported the school choice bill, said in a statement. "Beshear is wrong to veto House Bill 563. By doing so, he chose to listen to special interests like the [Kentucky Education Association, a teachers union] over the voice of Kentucky parents who are begging for help."

There's still a chance the bill could pass. In Kentucky, the state legislature can override a governor's veto if a majority of all lawmakers vote to do so. The school choice bill, House Bill 563, cleared the Republican-controlled state Senate earlier this month with broad support but passed the Republican-controlled state House by a slim 48-47 margin. Because there are 100 seats in the lower chamber, 51 votes would be necessary to override Beshear's veto.

Beshear has a long way to go to catch up with his New York and California counterparts in the ongoing contest to be America's worst governor—but Wednesday's veto shows he's not ready to concede the race just yet.

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  1. “…which is really quite unfair to the unaccountable public organizations that could be getting the funds instead.”

    You gotta admit, that’s a pretty great line.

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    2. They’re accountable on paper but in reality, they’re free to do whatever the fuck they want and the press that’s supposed to help, instead just makes excuses for them. People who back the public school monopoly just hate kids.

      1. “People who back the public school monopoly just hate kids.”

        Right. People on the other side aren’t just wrong on policy, they are actively evil.

    3. “…which is really quite unfair to the unaccountable public organizations that could be getting the funds instead.”

      You gotta admit, that’s a pretty great line.

      No, it isn’t. Because it is complete bullshit. Public schools face all kinds of accountability, while voucher systems, like in Florida, are the ones that have no accountability. The voucher students don’t have to take the same state tests. The schools do not have to publish any data on the tests the students do take. They don’t have to publish the qualifications of their teachers (nor do the teachers have to have any specific qualifications), and it gets worse. Schools receiving vouchers have been caught falsifying fire safety reports, hiring people with criminal records, financial mismanagement, and more. Look up “Schools Without Rules”, the investigative reporting from the Orlando Sentinel in Florida to see what the Republicans in Tallahassee are happy to let private schools using public money get away with.

  2. Damn. And just as all those rich parents in rich neighborhoods with rich schools were so looking forward to the chance to send their kids across district lines into poor neighborhoods with poor schools.

    1. you won the interwebs today

    2. “But if you ask me to bus my children
      I hope the cops take down your name
      So love me, love me, love me, i’m a liberal”

    3. Rich parents already have school choice. School choice helps poor kids but poor kids don’t donate to rich politicians so they can piss off.

  3. “Beshear, a Democrat . . . ”
    Explanation complete.

  4. We could just say Democrats are essentially racists for insisting that poor and minority students are forced into crowded decrepit public schools with undereducated union teachers.

    I mean they just literally said that about the filibuster, so two can play that game.

    1. I guess the difference is what you just said made zero sense. But what else would we expect?

      1. Raspberrydinners, a Democrat. There, now it should make sense to you.

  5. Say it in the form of $350,000 per classroom per year, ask your teacher how much he/she is making, and wonder where the *(#! the rest of the money is going.

    BTW: Schools and Staffing Survey is seriously borked. In Kansas, they have:

    Avg students per class
    20.6 Primary School
    20.4 Middle School
    19.7 High School
    17.6 Combined Grade Schools – Average

    What sort of cracked out meth math is that? Maybe that’s half of the public schools’ problem!

    1. Minimum and maximum class size requirements do this to you.

  6. No surprise, the teachers union owns the governor. The legislature is trying to fix the pension mess left by a string of democrat governor, particularly his father, but he is vetoing that too. The last governor lost his reelection bid because he tried to step into the pension situation.

  7. How is Beshear or any public servant even allowed to use his taxpayer-funded salary on private schools? Should be required of all officials to use public schools only.

    1. Ooooh. I like that.

    2. We revolted to get rid of worthless aristocrats and now we elect people who have everything but the powdered wigs.

    3. “How is Beshear or any public servant even allowed to use his taxpayer-funded salary on private schools? Should be required of all officials to use public schools only.”

      People get paid for doing a job, so their salary is theirs to do what they want with it. You are just arguing something that you would never consider reasonable if it wasn’t a Democrat that you don’t like you would be punishing.

  8. Everything is changing, everyone wants the fastest,
    But there is an old Chinese saying that haste is not enough

  9. I saw a recent report where DeVos likened school choice to a parent choosing clothing for their child. That, like equating it with ride services, shows how completely out of touch she is with the realities of “real life”.
    As we are seeing hopefully this will be the right cause rather than to save his post or to make a good image, Just like Obama said we will close guantanamo jail but he can not.
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