Despite Loud Critics, School Choice Will Promote Educational Freedom Across Kentucky

Despite Loud Critics, School Choice Will Promote Educational Freedom Across Kentucky

This article originally appeared in the Independent Women’s Forum.


Union leaders and special interest groups are fighting hard to keep school choice out of Kentucky. In launching their campaign against the ballot initiative, which would enable legislators to create a school choice option in the state, the activists trotted out the same tired, false talking points used by school choice opponents nationwide. While they’re working to keep children trapped in schools that fail to meet their needs, I thought I’d correct some of their lies.

Their first argument that the amendment’s passage would mean fewer dollars for Kentucky’s public schools is false. The amendment does not establish any type of school choice mechanism. It simply enables legislators to create a school choice program that would allow families, not the government, to choose the best learning environment for their children. Based on data from other states, that environment is most often their public school. School choice isn’t about “destroying public schools”; it’s about ensuring all students have access to the education option that best meets their needs.

School choice will improve public education

Another argument that doesn’t hold up is that rural communities would be more deeply affected by school choice. At the event, a speaker stated that public schools in rural areas were “the heartbeat of their communities” and mentioned the ways people benefit from them and how much rural residents love their schools. The good news is that if families love their public schools and they are serving the students well, they won’t leave. In fact, those public schools will likely improve if educational freedom comes to Kentucky. That’s exactly what happened in Arizona after they adopted a robust school choice program, proving that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Finally, the argument that the underserved and impoverished students would be left behind ignores the fact that they are already being left behind. Families with means have always had school choice. If their child needs something different from what their government-assigned school can provide, they already have the financial ability to choose another setting. Currently, the only students trapped in learning environments that aren’t the best fit for them are those without the financial resources to leave. School choice would free all families to make the best educational decisions for their children regardless of income.

Whether Kentucky legislators favor vouchers, education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships or some other education freedom mechanism is inconsequential unless voters provide them the pathway to establish them. Just as families should be free to decide where and how their children are educated, Kentucky voters are free to make this decision.

The good part about Kentucky being late to the party on school choice is that we have dozens of other states to look to as examples of what has worked and what hasn’t. We don’t have to be pioneers in uncharted territory. We can learn from those who courageously freed families to direct their children’s education years ago and are reaping the rewards today.

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