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Kentucky Supreme Court Strikes Down Tax Credits to Pay Private School Tuition

The lawsuit challenging the law was filed by the Council for Better Education, a group made up of most of Kentucky’s public school districts

Photo of the Capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky

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The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Kentucky law creating a generous tax credit to help families pay for tuition at private schools.

The opinion cites a long line of precedent reinforcing the Kentucky Constitution’s ban on the state financially supporting private schools in declaring the Education Opportunity Account Act unconstitutional.

The tax credit was available to any taxpayer who contributed to a fund that would make tuition assistance available to families.

“The statute creates a system whereby any Kentucky taxpayers who want to fund EOAs (education opportunity accounts) can send their money . . . for use at nonpublic schools instead of paying a comparable amount which they owe in Kentucky income tax,” wrote Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes in an opinion signed by all seven justices.

“Simply stated, it puts the Commonwealth in the business of raising ‘sum(s) … for education other than in common schools,’” which the Constitution prohibits, wrote Hughes.

“Kentucky taxpayers who participate in the EOA program get essentially dollar-for-dollar credit (generally 95%) against the income taxes they would otherwise contribute to the Commonwealth,” the opinion said.

The lawsuit challenging the 2021 law was filed by the Council for Better Education, a group made up of most of Kentucky’s public school districts. Advocates for “school choice” had lobbied for the law.

Implementation of the law was put on hold after Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled it unconstitutional last year.

Following the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision, Attorney General Cameron, who had defended the law before the Supreme Court, released this statement:

“We’re saddened that parents across the Commonwealth won’t be able to use the needs-based funding provided by Kentucky’s Education Opportunity Account Program to expand learning opportunities for their children. Our office is committed to helping ensure the best educational opportunity for every child.”

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: info@kentuckylantern.com. Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook and Twitter.

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