As students across Kentucky begin a new school year, many cannot wait to see their friends and reunite with their favorite teachers. Some are excited to continue learning in the classroom. In some cases, however, students are returning to an education that is not working for them or their families.
Each student has an education situation unique to themselves. As it stands, our education system leaves some students behind. Our current system can lock students into a school that does not match up with the type of education they want or need.
We know too, that wealthy families have the resources to switch schools if it’s not working for their child, they can move to a different district or pay nonpublic school tuition. Unfortunately, the cost of moving or paying tuition prevents low and middle-income families from having the same option.
Fortunately, there is a solution to increase the amount of educational opportunities for all Kentuckians of every financial background: scholarship tax credits.
Scholarship tax credits allow a partial tax credit to businesses, individuals and banks that donate to a qualifying non-profit scholarship granting organization. In turn, these organizations grant scholarships to families on a financial need-basis, empowering them to select the school best for their child’s needs – an opportunity they do not have currently.
In Kentucky bipartisan legislators from across the state support legislation establishing a scholarship tax credit program. Republican State Senator Ralph Alvarado of Winchester and Democratic State Representative Tommy Thompson of Owensboro are leading advocates for Kentucky students on this issue.
We see the same initiatives growing around the nation as well. At this time, there have been twenty-one scholarship tax credit programs enacted in sixteen states. Based on several empirical studies conducted in those states, each education system has seen significant improvement in student academic outcomes after implementation of a scholarship tax credit program.
As the newly-elected president of EdChoice Kentucky, a grassroots nonpartisan coalition dedicated to advocating for expanding opportunities in education across the Commonwealth, my goal is to educate Kentuckians about the benefits of scholarship tax credits. As Chief Executive Officer of Brandeis Machinery and Supply Company, I can tell you first hand that many businesses around the state are constantly looking for ways to give back to our old Kentucky home. Scholarship tax credits would further incentivize giving and improve our education system at the same time.
Some supporters of EdChoice Kentucky have formed the Smarter Future Council, a group of more than 50 business leaders and organizations who support scholarship tax credits as a means to increase the number of educational opportunities offered in the state. Business leaders know that any program that supports education also helps develop a first-class workforce to help keep Kentucky businesses competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. It’s rare that you see educators, business leaders, Republicans, and Democrats agree on an issue. But in this case, most everyone agrees: scholarship tax credits will positively impact Kentucky students and families. They will help ensure that more Kentucky student gets the best education possible, regardless of ZIP code, race, gender or class.
Charles Leis is the president of EdChoice Kentucky.