Bill to expand KEES funds for homeschooled students advances

January 19, 2024 | 12:11 am

Updated January 19, 2024 | 12:18 am

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, testifies Thursday on Senate Bill 7, which would allow homeschooled students to receive Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship awards. | Photo from Kentucky LRC

The Senate Education Committee advanced a measure Thursday that would allow homeschooled students to receive Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship funds for attending college.

Senate Bill 7 would allow homeschooled students to earn KEES scholarships based on their score from taking the Classic Learning Test, which the bill counts as equivalent to the ACT.

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, who is sponsoring the legislation, said members of his family were homeschooled and performed well academically, and he would like to see KEES expanded for others learning at home.

“This levels the playing field,” he said. “We have about 60,000 kids that are in homeschool, and about 20,000 of them are in grades 9-12 currently. This would allow them a level playing field to be able to achieve what other students are able to achieve in KEES money.”

Committee members approved the measure on a 12-0 vote after some discussion over the Classic Learning Test.

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, asked if there is evidence or research by a “credible source” concerning the Classic Learning Test for college preparedness.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, a cosponsor of SB 7, said the committee heard extensive testimony on the Classic Learning Test during the interim. He said the test has generated discussion in the past and has been removed in past versions of the bill.

“Then we found out people really did support the Classic Learning Test, and the evidence was there that it was a compatible test that was gaining momentum and respectability in the education establishment so we decided to put it back in,” he said.

Neal responded that he’s seeking definitive information on the test’s efficacy.

“It was my understanding that the only place that this has been dealt with broadly is in Florida,” he said. “In other words, there are institutions and entities, small ones that are done here and there. I’m sure there’s value in it because the classics, I have an affinity for that myself. But I’m just looking for a basis, and maybe there’s a specific site.”

Schickel said he’ll provide additional information to Neal about the test.

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said the ACT might not hold the stature it once had among colleges and universities to determine a potential student’s college readiness level. West is chair of the committee.

“In some situations, maybe the ACT’s out of vogue. It’s not as prestigious or used as much as it once was, so was that a factor in maybe adding the Class Learning Test to the list? Is that a possible factor?” he said.

Schickel said he thinks the committee received testimony on that issue during the interim, and that the Classic Learning Test was gaining momentum.

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he has been supportive of homeschooled students, but he also has concerns about the Classic Learning Test and agrees with Neal.

“And again, his point is, it’s not so much the classics that he expressed concern about and I expressed concern about, it’s whether the CLT is on the same par as the SAT and ACT,” he said. “We all accept those as acceptable standardized tests to determine college readiness.”

Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greenburg, suggested bill drafters should look at language in the bill to avoid any unintended consequences involving accredited out-of-state high schools and Department of Defense Education Activity schools. He said this could be rectified with a floor amendment.

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, praised the legislation.

“It will be so beneficial to private school and homeschool students and so beneficial to the state of Kentucky to keep them and retain them here with the KEES scholarship money,” she said.

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

January 19, 2024 | 12:11 am

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