While Kentucky has failed to even enact one of the most basic forms of school choice, charter schools, education programs in other states are moving out even farther ahead of us into much more dramatic school choice-territory.
Several days ago Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a school-voucher bill for his state that gives families of students with special needs more educational options than ever before.
* Each student’s voucher will be funded at a level between a current student support level ($6,521 in 2014-15), up to but not exceeding the amount of tuition and fees at the private school.
* Students must have had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and been enrolled in an Arkansas public school for at least one year. Dependents of active-duty members of the military are also eligible.
Arkansas is far from alone in the choice area. Nevada’s governor, Brian Sandoval, just signed a tax-credit scholarship bill for his state to benefit low-income students.
* Under this new Nevada legislation, students can qualify for scholarships up to a maximum of $7,775 in 2015-16. That limit will increase according to the Consumer Price Index increase each year.
* All students receiving scholarships under this new Nevada program must come from families whose household incomes are at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty line ($72,750 for a family of four in 2015-16).
* The Nevada money never enters the tax stream. It is handled by Scholarship Granting Organizations that collect money from corporations who get a tax credit for their grants. This is a great way to offer students from modest to low-income homes school choice options that otherwise would be totally unavailable to them.
Kentucky has plenty of low-income and special needs students, and their achievement gaps have been the subject of much discussion – but sadly not that much progress – ever since the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 was enacted.
Many of these Kentucky students are poorly served by the one-size-must-fit-all traditional school system in this state – a system which offers virtually no real choice options. It’s time for Kentucky to move beyond its very closed-minded and traditional school mindset that mostly just suits the staff.
It’s time to start doing things like what Arkansas and Nevada just did for the kids, instead.