The crucial fight for school choice in Kentucky

February 8, 2024

By Tim Worstall

The road to school choice can be long and hard. Knowing that it’s beneficial means the effort is worth it. It’s especially worth it for the poor and minority children who benefit most from their parents being able to choose the best education for them rather than whatever the local school board and the teachers’ unions are willing to allow them to have.

That is the underlying argument, too. It’s going to be the poor and minority children who are last in line when anything’s given out. That’s why empowering their parents does so much good.

But that long and hard road. In Kentucky, the State Constitution is read as not allowing any form of school choice. Not because it directly says that, but because that constitution says that no tax money can be spent on anything but the “common” (which is taken to mean straight public) schools. One way out of this might be to state that charter schools are public schools simply but that also seems not to be allowed.

So, we now have a change in that State Constitution being proposed. The basics are here:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky: 4 Section 1. To give families and children more educational opportunities, are you in favor of enabling the General Assembly to provide financial support for the education costs of students in kindergarten through grade twelve who are outside the system of common (public) schools by amending the Constitution of Kentucky as stated below?

It has to be a question because the way to change that constitution is to have a proposition at the upcoming elections in November. To which the voters get to say yes or no.

The legislation seeks to amend the state Constitution to give the General Assembly the ability to give dollars to “the education of students outside the system of common schools,” or non-public schools. If approved by lawmakers, Kentucky voters would decide on the amendment in November.

We expect to see the school boards and the teachers’ unions argue against this. As they’re the people who think they lose out if charter schools are allowed. If allowed, we expect the beneficiaries to be the children in the school system – especially those poor and minorities who benefit the most from school choice.

We’re obviously in favor of the change on the grounds that we’re in favor of school choice, period.

We do know one flawed argument that will be used against the change – other than just that the bureaucracy will lose out from charter schools. It’s in the constitution, so we shouldn’t change it; the people who set up the State wanted it all this way. To which the answer is, well, that’s why the people who set up the State set up a system to change the constitution. So, if what we know changes, we can also change the law.

Like with charter schools and other forms of school choice, all the evidence we have of the past few decades is that they’re beneficial to the education of children, especially poor and minority children. So, let’s change the rules so that we can do this as we now know it to be a good thing.  


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