What’s good is that school-choice policy dominated much of the closing days of this year’s gubernatorial campaign.
It’s a critical issue for Kentucky, which trails most other states when it comes to school-choice policies for parents.
What’s not good is that Gov.-elect Andy Beshear seems just fine with supporting organizations and policies that oppose giving other Kentucky parents the same opportunity he’s had to choose a private school for his children.
When Republican Gov. Matt Bevin confronted Beshear during a campaign debate in northern Kentucky about the hypocrisy of sending his children to a private school while riding the wave of political support from teachers’ unions and other anti-school-choice groups, Beshear attempted to punt.
First, he accused the governor of attacking his children.
Then he attempted to turn the focus on early childhood education by talking about how he and his wife had the “amazing opportunity that far too few families get” to put his children in preschool.
But he could also have been talking about the “amazing opportunity” he and his wife had “that far too few families get” to enroll their elementary school-age children in a private school.
Beshear admitted, “we fell in love with the school they’re at, and they’re going to finish fifth grade there.”
What’s more hypocritical than a public official with the financial means to provide his own children with a private education promising to use political power to deny giving poor Kentucky families a tax-credit scholarship so they, too, can have the same “amazing opportunity” to choose a school they “fell in love with” rather than one assigned to them on the basis of which side of the tracks they happen to live?
Beshear attempted another punt, claiming such policies “defund our public schools.”
Bevin blocked it by noting that the money provided for these scholarships comes from voluntary donations by private citizens who “give their after-tax dollars to be able to provide a scholarship to a child to have a choice.”
The primary reason the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of such programs is precisely because no government entity – including, thankfully, public-education bureaucrats – touches it.
Dollars move from donors to scholarship-granting organizations to parents to the schools in which they choose to enroll their children.
Contributors are awarded a credit against their state tax liability as a way of incentivizing more individuals and businesses to donate.
However, Beshear clearly articulates a view that limits access to alternatives to only those children fortunate enough to reside in wealthy families.
WFPL-FM reported that during this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign, Beshear said: “If you want to send your kids to private schools, that’s your right. That’s a choice that many people make and should be able to make.”
Yet by opposing a voluntary giving program which makes such choices possible for many families, Beshear is really saying: You can have more choices for your children if you have the wealth which allows you to write big tuition checks to private schools. But it’s just tough luck for those families and their kids who don’t.
Where does such snobbery fit into the platform of a Democratic governor-elect who promised on his campaign website to “make sure every child has a shot at the American dream – regardless of zip code or family income?”
Regardless of family income?
Don’t disparage the fact that Beshear and his family have choices when it comes to where they educate their children.
Rather, despise the hypocrisy that would allow a Kentuckian to govern contentedly while blocking the same opportunity for his fellow citizens simply because their paychecks aren’t big enough and union ideology opposes it.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and @bipps on Twitter.
Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide. This version is edited to reflect the results of the recent gubernatorial election but not the idea that tax-credit scholarships should be available to give every Kentuckian the same privilege the governor-elect and his family enjoy.