Lawmakers in Kentucky successfully overrode Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of a school choice bill, opening several avenues for families in the state to pursue a better education for their children.
The new law, originally House Bill 563, allows students in Kentucky public schools to switch school districts, and it creates a new tax-advantaged education savings program for families to use for private school tuition, to pay for tutoring, or to cover other educational expenses. The most controversial part of the proposal was the creation of 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 largest counties can tap to help pay for private school tuition.
In vetoing the bill last week, Beshear, a Democrat, repeated tired arguments from teachers unions and public school superintendents who fear the erosion of their monopoly control over the state's education spending.
Thankfully, the Republican-controlled state legislature wasn't listening. The state House voted 51-42 on Monday evening to override Beshear's veto and the state Senate followed suit with a vote of 23-14 shortly afterward. (In Kentucky, overriding a veto does not require a supermajority vote.)
"Lawmakers ultimately did the right thing for students, and for the first time, Kentucky families will have access to the schooling options they deserve to find the best fit for their kids," says Robert Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice, an organization that backed the bill.
With the passage of the first school choice bill in state history, Kentucky is now the 28th state with some form of school choice, according to the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit that supports school choice.
There may soon be more. The Wall Street Journal notes on Tuesday that more than 50 school choice bills have been introduced in different states this year, with the uptick in legislative interest likely a direct result of teachers unions' unwillingness to reopen schools as the COVID-19 pandemic abates.
Beshear's veto demonstrated how the public school establishment continues to exert political pressure on states that try to give families more educational options. But the Kentucky legislature's swift reversal suggests that the tide is turning.