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Monday, March 4, 2019

All NKY Superintendents Speak out on "Scholarship Tax Credit bill"

Update: 3-7-19

The 2019 Kentucky General Assembly has five days left until adjournment of their short session to complete the business of the Commonwealth this year.

One of the more contentious bills is still held up in committee, but it is not for a lack of discussion.

Kentucky House Bill 205, known as the "Scholarship Tax Credit bill", would create a private school scholarship tax credit program in Kentucky.

Under the program, dollar-for-dollar tax breaks would be used as an incentive for individuals and organizations to donate to private school scholarship programs. Kentuckians could see up to $1 million knocked off their tax bills under the program, with $25 million in credits available each year on a first-come, first-served basis.

The bill has been read twice in the House Appropriations and Revenue committee, but the committee did not take a vote on the bill. Doing that, and passing it, would ensure the bill could advance as a stand-alone bill, which is what the bill's sponsor, Bam Carney (R-Campbellsville) prefers. He told reporters he wants the bill to "stand on its own merits."

Last year, the passage of pension reform was tucked inside of another bill, known as the sewer bill, in the final days of the legislative session, leaving some constituents on edge that this bill could be delivered in a similar manner.

Sponsors of the bill are Carney, Chad McCoy (R-Nelson), Adam Koenig (R-Boone/Kenton), Sal Santoro (R-Boone), Jerry T. Miller (R-Jefferson, Oldham), David Osborne (R-Oldham), Walker Thomas (R-Christian, Trigg), Kevin Bratcher (R-Jefferson) Richard Heath (R-Graves, McCracken).

Carney said he believes the legislation requires 60 votes in the House, not just a simple majority. He told reporters he didn't have enough votes to feel confident moving the bill forward yet.

"It will be difficult to get to that mark," he said.

Currently the House Republicans hold 61 seats to the House Democrats' 39.

Members of the House A&R Committee consists of 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

The members of that committee are: Steven Rudy, Chair, (R), Phillip Pratt, Vice Chair (R),
Lynn Bechler (R), Danny Bentley - (R), Myron Dossett - (R), Joseph M. Fischer - (R), Kelly Flood - (D), Jim Glenn - (D), David Hale - (R), Mark Hart - (R), Angie Hatton - (D), Dennis Keene - (D), Russ A. Meyer - (D), Jason Nemes - (R), Ruth Ann Palumbo - (D), Melinda Gibbons Prunty - (R), Brandon Reed - (R), Steve Riley - (D), Sal Santoro - (R), John Sims Jr - (D), Jim Stewart III - (R), Wilson Stone - (D), James Tipton - (R), Susan Westrom - (D).

The Legislative Research Commission has estimated the program could cost the state up to $50 million by its fourth year of implementation, but proponents of the bill tout the office of the state budget director's analysis, which states the bill would actually save the state money in the long run.

The bills' opponents dismissed that rationale, stating that fixed costs are not factored into that assessment.

Fort Thomas Matters has reached out to Rep. Joe Fischer, who represents Fort Thomas and sits on the House A&R committee, but as of time of publication has not heard back. 

Sen. Wil Schroder said that 

HB 205, Bill History:
Monday, March 4, 2019 - returned to Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Monday, March 4, 2019 - 2nd reading

Monday, March 4, 2019 - taken from Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Friday, March 1, 2019 - returned to Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Friday, March 1, 2019 - 1st reading

Friday, March 1, 2019 - taken from Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - posted in committee

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - to Appropriations & Revenue (H)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - introduced in House

Original story written on Monday, March 4: 

School superintendents from every Northern Kentucky school district came together today to stand up for students and speak out in opposition to Kentucky House Bill 205, which they say could reduce state coffers by millions of dollars a year by giving away state funds in new tax credits.

Seventeen school districts are members of the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational services and all were represented at the press conference.

HB205, known as the “Scholarship Tax Credit bill” is expected to be called up in committee Tuesday morning.

“To have every superintendent in this region here today shows you how concerned we are with the Scholarship Tax Credit bill,” said Alvin L. Garrison, superintendent of Covington Independent Public Schools.

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“If you have a child in public school, HB205 is an attack on you and your child,” said Dr. David A. Rust, superintendent of Campbell County Schools, speaking for all the superintendents. “It will deprive dollars to provide your child a quality education. It will deprive our ability to continue to expand our excellent public-school offerings and opportunities to our children.”

“Our opposition to HB 205 is not an argument against parent choice or against those who want to donate money to private schools,” Dr. Rust noted. “It is an argument for adequate funding for public schools as mandated in the Kentucky constitution, and it is an argument against giving away more state general fund dollars when our public schools and districts are already woefully underfunded.”

A release be NKCES stated that Kentucky ranks third worst among all states in state funding for public schools, with the deepest cuts to K-12 education from 2008-2017, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Fundamental elements and programs to support students’ education – such as textbooks, instructional resources, early childhood learning, and school bus transportation – remain critically underfunded or lack state funding altogether.

“Our state legislators beat their chests and bragged about increasing SEEK funding by $18 per student last year, to the highest level ever....and bragged about pumping more money into teacher pensions,” said Dr. Rust, speaking for all the superintendents. “That was all true and we greatly appreciate it. What they failed to tell you is that they reduced all of the items previously mentioned, resulting in a net loss of tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars in many our districts. Districts saw fewer dollars to spend on students and teachers this year.”

In addition, last week the Kentucky Senate and House passed Senate Bill 1, the School Safety Bill, legislation applauded by the superintendents. However, all the measures discussed in the Safety Bill cannot be implemented next year due to a lack of funding.

“At a time when school safety is on the minds of everyone associated with public education and funding is not available, a bill that will reduce the revenue in the state of Kentucky by $25 million dollars in the first year is unacceptable,” said Covington Superintendent Garrison. “Lawmakers across the Commonwealth have stated that they are committed to finding funding for our student’s safety. It is, therefore, a direct conflict of interest and message to support yet another tax break that will reduce the revenue in our state.”

“The claim that students leaving a public school to attend a private school actually saves money, is simply not true,” said Dr. Rust. “When enrollment drops for any reason, fixed and stranded operational costs always remain and continue to climb through simple inflation. When students leave public schools, the fixed costs do not leave with them.”

The list of Northern Kentucky School Districts represented at the press conference today and their superintendents:

Beechwood Independent Schools – Mike Stacy
Bellevue Independent Schools – Robb Smith
Boone County Schools – Randy Poe
Bracken County Schools – Jeff Aulick
Campbell County Schools – David Rust
Covington Independent Public Schools – Alvin Garrison
Dayton Independent Schools – Jay Brewer
Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools – Kathy Burkhardt
Fort Thomas Independent Schools – Karen Cheser
Kenton County Schools – Henry Webb
Ludlow Independent Schools – Mike Borchers
Newport Independent Schools – Kelly Middleton
Pendleton County Schools – Joe Buerkley
Silver Grove Independent Schools – Jim Palm
Southgate Independent Schools – Greg Duty
Walton-Verona Independent Schools – Matt Baker
Williamstown Independent Schools – Misty Middleton

Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services: Executive Director Amy Razor

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