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Lawmakers pass school choice, teacher pension bills

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 5:27 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Perhaps the bill getting the most attention and causing some commotion in Frankfort Tuesday is House Bill 563. This is the bill that would create funding through tax credit that would allow students to move to schools outside of their home district.

Opponents say this would harm public education because it would limit revenue and give public funding to private schools. Those for it say it gives families more choices.

Tuesday night, it passed the Senate 21-15 with an amendment. It then went back to the House where it ultimately concurred and passed with a narrow 48-47 vote. It previously passed the House 51-45. The governor is expected to veto it.

Another bill we have been watching tonight is Senate Bill 128, which offers students a do-over year because of the pandemic. This is for any K-12 student and it does give athletes a fifth year of eligibility. It passed Tuesday with bipartisan support.

The third is House Bill 258. This one changes pension for newly-hired teachers. This requires any teacher in Kentucky hired after January 1 next year to enter a hybrid pension plan. This also caps the pension obligation at 10% of salary. Teachers would have to work at least 30 years, which is three more than what is currently required. It passed by a much larger margin, 62-34. Those against it voiced their concerns over recruiting teachers.

It was a long night in Frankfort, and now begins the veto period. Lawmakers can then come back to vote to override those. A lot to watch in the weeks ahead.

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Original story -- Tuesday marks a big deadline for lawmakers. It’s the last day they can pass legislation that the governor has the power to veto or sign into law. One of the major bills is all about school choice.

Supporters of House Bill 563 cheered for legislation they say would give parents more choices.

“This year was our first year two of my three children went to private schools. And we made that said switch due to COVID-19 and with the schools being shut down we had to have in-person learning,” Madison County mom Denise Caudill said.

The bill would create funding through a tax credit that would allow students to move to schools outside of their home district. Fayette County Public Schools Board of Education Chair Tyler Murphy says the bill would harm public schools.

“At a time when our public schools are facing significant challenges and burdens we don’t need to be limiting revenue,” Murphy said.

One amendment made would allow families to use educational opportunity accounts toward private schools in some counties, including Fayette.

“I was able to put them in a private elementary school and keep them there daily and keep them learning,” Caudill said.

Murphy says Fayette County Public Schools work to help low income families, but need more state funding to do it.

“It is the responsibility the Supreme Court has said of our General Assembly to provide adequate funding for them,” Murphy said.

House Bill 563 still needs to pass in the Senate. Then it goes back to the House. If both chambers agree on a final version by tonight, it will go to the governor’s desk.

Beshear is expected to veto it, but lawmakers could override that veto.

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