Kentucky school choice amendment could be on the ballot in 2024

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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By Steve Bittenbender

The Center Square

Unlike other recent Kentucky General Assembly sessions, legislators did not pass a school choice bill before this year’s session ended last week.

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However, proponents are not deterred and say steps Republican lawmakers took position their cause for success in 2024. Next year, they expect the legislature to pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would give it the power to fund school choice initiatives.

House Bill 174, filed this year by state Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Irvington, called for that amendment referendum. However, even if it cleared through the House and Senate, it would have been placed on the 2024 ballot – just like it would if it passes next year.

In January, a poll commissioned by EdChoice Kentucky found 54% of registered voters across the state supported a school choice amendment and the measure enjoyed at least 50% support in all of the state’s regions.

The strongest support is in Eastern and Western Kentucky, where 58% and 57%, respectively, support it.

In a statement to The Center Square, Jim Waters, president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said the “temporary delay” is actually “the beginning of actual educational freedom in the commonwealth.”

Before this year’s session began, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled last December  a law creating educational opportunity accounts violated the state constitution regarding taxpayers funding public schools.

“They basically said in their findings that if Kentucky wants to have a school choice program, then we need to change the constitution to allow it,” Calloway told The Center Square.

While HB 174 did not get a floor vote in the House this year, it did pass the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. Calloway’s bill also has 34 co-sponsors, more than a third of the chamber and nearly half of the GOP’s 80-seat caucus.

“We’ve found a strong legislative champion in Rep. Calloway, who’s committed to the legislation,” he said.

Calloway, who was removed from some committee assignments at the end of the session, said the caucus has worked together on the school choice measure, and he’s eager to let voters decide on it next year.

“I’m not interested in my name being on a bill as much as I am policy,” he said. “So, whatever I need to do to make sure that that gets through, I will be there to make sure that happens. I’m game on for making sure that gets across the finish line.”