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Ralph Alvarado: Scholarship tax credits would help expand opportunities for all Kentucky students

I serve the people of Kentucky today to ensure our tomorrow is better and brighter for future generations. I work every day to find solutions allowing Kentucky to grow and prosper.

One of the most important aspects of a strong Kentucky is the best education possible for every student, despite their economic standing. Unfortunately, our current system is saddled by a lack of choice in education, a lack of solutions to fix the ailments of our education system, and a lack of necessary resources available to ensure every Kentucky student get the best education possible. Currently, Kentucky ranks 42nd in the nation when it comes to education achievement for low-income students.

There are many great public schools, but not every school can meet the needs of every family. We need to allow the mechanisms to find the right school for each student.

There are ways to fix that problem, and I am working with both sides of the aisle to do that through a Scholarship Tax Credit Program. A scholarship tax credit program allows individuals or businesses to receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit from state taxes when they contribute to a qualified scholarship granting organization providing tuition assistance for low and middle-income students attending non-public schools or to a 501(c)(3) supporting public education.

There are many great public schools, but not every school can meet the needs of every family. We need to allow the mechanisms to find the right school for each student.

Wealthy parents have the means to send their children to any private school they want, or to move to a better public school district if they choose. But for Kentucky’s middle- and low-income families who lack the means to move or go to a non-public school, choice in education is not an option.

Scholarship tax credits can rectify the imbalance existing between rich and poor in our education system. This idea is taking hold in states all over the country. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have already adopted programs allowing parents to select an educational environment that best fits their child’s needs. Scholarship tax credits can work for Kentucky.

Scholarship tax credits don’t rely on any public funding, but are scholarships granted to students through charitable donations. Corporations or individuals that contribute to a scholarship granting organization would receive a partial tax credit.

School choice is often seen as a polarizing partisan term; but authorizing scholarship tax credits doesn’t have to be either of those things. EdChoice KY proposes the inclusion of a provision to allow private donors to choose between giving to a scholarship granting organization for private schools or giving to a fund that would be used to improve public schools.

Making this legislative idea a reality in Kentucky would help underprivileged families whose parents want to send their children to private schools. This legislation would also help administrators of public schools that might need extra funding to also give their students the best possible opportunity. For those who ordinarily find themselves on opposite sides of the school choice debate, this type of legislation is a win-win.

Several of Kentucky’s neighboring states have already adopted school choice programs; and as everyone in our Commonwealth knows, we compete with them for jobs and economic development. A well-publicized and future determinative factor in whether Kentucky gets new investment and jobs is whether our workforce is as educated as possible.

Over in Indiana, which has a robust school choice system, 4th and 8th graders are beating Kentucky students in math scores. Today’s schoolkids are tomorrow’s engineers and high-skilled workers. We need to give our kids the opportunity to compete nationally with their peers.

Kentucky already has several scholarship organizations which provide financial help to low-income students who wish to attend private or parochial schools. There are not, however, enough funds to go around for all the parents whose kids are currently trapped in a failing school. Scholarship tax credits will unlock a world of opportunities for kids who currently find themselves on the outside of the best schools, looking in.

I urge Kentuckians, and my fellow legislators, to look at this bipartisan solution to our failing education system and join me in helping expand opportunities for all Kentucky students.


Ralph Alvarado is a state senator from Winchester, representing Kentucky’s 28th District (Clark, part of Fayette, Montgomery counties).

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