‘Protect Our Schools KY’ coalition launches local campaign to fight amendment about school funding

May 31, 2024 | 12:15 am

Updated May 31, 2024 | 1:54 am

Photo by Josh Kelly

A new group of public school advocates has been formed to fight the constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot asking voters if they think state funds should be able to be spent on non-public schools. Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Matt Robbins was among the local stakeholders who spoke Thursday during a small gathering to kick off the “Protect Our Schools KY” coalition’s local campaign.

Robbins said that “stakes are high for our families, our schools, and our communities.”

The amendment will be on the ballot due to the passage of House Bill 2, a measure sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro.

The proposed ballot language will read:

“To give parents choices in educational opportunities for their children, are you in favor of enabling the General Assembly to provide financial support for the education costs of students in kindergarten through 12th grade who are outside the system of common (public) schools by amending the Constitution of Kentucky as stated below?”

If passed, the constitutional amendment will read:

“The General Assembly may provide financial support for the education of students outside the system of common schools. The General Assembly may exercise this authority by law, Sections 59, 60, 171, 183, 184, 186 and 189 of this Constitution notwithstanding.”

While the amendment will ask voters if they want to give the legislature the ability to fund non-public schools, such as charter and private schools, it does not address any specific policies or funding mechanisms. 

“This is not a policy decision,” Miles said earlier this year. “There is no funding in this bill whatsoever. There is no enabling legislation. This is solely a constitutional amendment to put on the ballot.”

Rep. DJ Johnson, a co-sponsor of the bill, similarly said passage of the amendment would not guarantee that any specific actions would be taken and that it would only allow for the conversation regarding what direction Kentucky education should go. 

Miles and Johnson have been adamant in saying such discussions about vouchers, private schools, or other specific policies and funding are premature.

“That conversation could be for another time, another place. But there’s a long path before we get to that place. This is the first step in that,” Miles said when HB 2 passed.

However, Robbins and the coalition are still calling it a “Voucher Amendment.” A release from the coalition calls the amendment “harmful” and says it “would devastate public schools.”

Robbins said if the amendment passes, there will be consequences for public schools statewide.

“To be clear, it would allow for public money to be funneled to unaccountable, private schools by way of vouchers,” Robbins said. “… [The amendment] paves the way for our state to begin writing blank checks to private schools using our tax dollars that should go to public schools and our students. This voucher amendment would siphon tax dollars away from our public districts and starve students of critical resources they need to receive the strongest education possible and help us set them up for a lifetime of success.”

Union County Public Schools Superintendent Patricia Shepherd and other members of education and community organizations joined Robbins on Thursday. 

Khoa Ta, a rising junior who was recently appointed as a student representative to the Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education, said that as a student he thinks passage of the amendment could cause ripple effects within the public school districts throughout the state.

Ta is a member of several educational organizations in policy throughout the state, including the Kentucky Student Voice Team.

“This is not a partisan issue, this is not an issue that only I as a student who is a board member see. This is a community and a statewide issue that affects the future of students present now and in the future,” Ta said.

In addition to those currently in education, Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph, president of the Owensboro chapter of the NAACP, said that this is issue extends beyond education to the community at large.

“Our public schools have always been a lifeline for students in need, providing not only education but also essential support and resources,” she said. “We must support public education so we can support all of our students.”

May 31, 2024 | 12:15 am

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