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Public school advocates launch campaign to fight Kentucky ‘school choice’ amendment

A room full of voting booths.
Stephanie Wolf
/
LPM
Protect Our Schools KY is a political issue committee formed to oppose Amendment 2.

Opponents of K-12 privatization in Kentucky announced an effort to oppose Amendment 2 on the November ballot, which would allow tax dollars to flow to private and charter schools.

A group of public education advocates launched a campaign Thursday to oppose an amendment set to appear on Kentucky’s November ballot. They’re against Amendment 2, which would change the Kentucky Constitution so that state lawmakers could fund private school tuition and other educational programs outside public K-12 education.

Speaking from East Perry Elementary in Hazard, a group of educators announced the formation of Protect Our Schools KY.

Perry County Schools Superintendent Kent Campbell said the proposed constitutional change in Amendment 2 “paves the way for our state to begin writing blank checks to private schools using dollars that should go to public schools and their students.”

He joined several other eastern Kentucky educators, parents and former students to urge people to vote “no” on Amendment 2 in November.

Campbell and others referred to it as the “voucher amendment.” In many other states, taxpayer-funded voucher programs help families pay for some or all of their private school tuition.

Amendment 2 would not automatically create a voucher program, but it would negate several sections of the state constitution that have so far prevented lawmakers from enacting voucher-like initiatives. Those sections have also prevented lawmakers from funding charter schools — schools that are funded by taxpayers but run by private groups.

Advocates of government support for private and charter schools refer to such efforts as “school choice” initiatives. They say they help families have more choices outside traditional public schools. The GOP-led Kentucky Legislature passed a measure during the last legislative session that sent Amendment 2 to the voters.

Sawyer Noe, a recent graduate of Knott County Schools, said the constitutional change would divert funding from public schools.

“Not only are we being asked to allow our tax dollars to subsidize a private education for the select few, but we are being asked to do so at a time when public schools are having to cut critical services,” Noe said.

Perry County teacher Tiffany Combs said schools in her community are a “lifeline” for many families, providing basic needs like food.

“Schools and educators are already asked to do more with less every year. If the voucher amendment passes, vouchers will make that problem even worse,” Combs said.

Knott and Perry were both hit hard by the devastating floods of July 2022. In opposing the constitutional amendment on the House floor in March, Republican Rep. Chris Fugate, of Chavies, noted that his community was still waiting on funding for multiple flood-damaged schools to be repaired or rebuilt.

According to filings with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, Protect Our Schools KY is a “political issue committee” formed to oppose Amendment 2. Similar to political action committees, or PACs, political issue committees can raise money to oppose or support ballot questions.

The group said it’s starting a statewide tour, starting in Paducah on May 28.

Protect Our Schools KY is chaired by Tom Shelton, the executive secretary of Council for Better Education. CBE is behind several successful legal challenges against attempts by state lawmakers to fund private schools and charter schools.

Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell is Protect Our Schools KY’s treasurer.

Supporters of Amendment 2 have their own political issue committee, called Kentucky Students First. It’s chaired by longtime private and charter school advocate Charles Leis, CEO of EdChoice Kentucky.

Neither group has reported any spending or receipts yet.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.
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