A critical look at the charter schools amendment on the ballot this November Skip to content

A critical look at the charter schools amendment on the ballot this November

It’s even worse when you dig into it.

4 min read

I’ve written about this subject before (Wincity Voices, February 14, 2024) but the subject is so important that it deserves additional commentary. I shall likely write about it again before the November elections because of its potential impact on public school funding.

The reader may also wish to read the March 15 Kentucky Lantern piece on charter school legislation by McKenna Horsley.

The Kentucky legislature has approved placing a proposal to change the Kentucky Constitution on the November ballot. This proposed amendment would allow the General Assembly to provide funds for charter schools; the complete amendment reads as follows: [all bolding and underlining in original]

AN ACT proposing to create a new section of the Constitution of Kentucky relating to education funding. (Notice that the title doesn’t say “relating to moving education funding from the public schools to private corporations.”)

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

  • Section 1.  To give parents choices in educational opportunities for their children, are you in favor of enabling the General Assembly to provide financial support for the education costs of students in kindergarten through 12th grade who are outside the system of common (public) schools by amending the Constitution of Kentucky as stated below?

The General Assembly may provide financial support for the education of students outside the system of common schools.  The General Assembly may exercise this authority by law, Sections 59, 60, 171, 183, 184, 186 and 189 of the Constitution notwithstanding.

“Notwithstanding” means that the enumerated sections would be eliminated and no longer have any force of law in Kentucky related to education funding. Notice the opening clause in Section 1. It purports to be an act opening educational opportunities without telling the voter that the result will be harmful to the education to 90% of Kentucky students.

Okay, so not only do our legislators want the Kentucky public to allow its tax dollars to be funneled to private entities to run private schools, but they are also asking the voters to abrogate several sections of the present Kentucky Constitution, most of which have been in place since 1891 and have served to assure that schools in this state are provided funds to further students’ education (although never adequately).

So, let’s look at some of the sections they want to eliminate.

Section 59 – Prevents the General Assembly from authorizing, regulating the levying, assessment, or collection of taxes. Imagine how much havoc the elimination of this section would produce!

Section 60 – Prevents the General Assembly from passing laws relating to common schools “unless otherwise expressly provided in the Constitution.” See what’s happening here?  Approval of this amendment removes Constitutional protection for funding for common schools.

Section 171 – “Taxes shall be levied and collected for public purposes only.” Getting rid of this section allows those taxes to be spent for private purposes. And without this section taxes could conceivably be transferred to numerous other private functions even beyond charter schools.

Section 183 – “The General Assembly shall, by appropriate legislation, provide for an efficient system of common schools throughout the State.” ‘Nuff said.

Section 184 – “No sum shall be raised or collected for education other than in common schools until the question of taxation is submitted to the legal voters, and the majority of votes cast at said election shall be in favor of such taxation.”  Easy enough to see what elimination of this section would do to the allocation of funds and remove oversight by the voters.

Section 186 – “All funds accruing to the school fund shall be used for the maintenance of the public schools of the Commonwealth, and for no other purpose…” [emphasis added]

Section 189 — “No portion of any fund or tax now existing, or may hereafter be raised or levied for educational purposes, shall be appropriated to, or used by, or in aid of, any church, sectarian of denominational school.”  Again, ‘nuff said.

Despite all the protestations of those who compiled and proposed this bill regarding how innocuous it is, the real truth is that the Kentucky voter and taxpayer is being asked, in one fell swoop of the pen on the ballot, to do away with seven governing principles of the Kentucky Constitution and allow the current and all future General Assemblies decide how much of our taxes will be channeled off to non-governmental entities, thereby depriving the vast majority of Kentucky students of their rights to education. 

Make no mistake, the miserly actions of our legislature in recent memory will continue and there will never be additional funds to support both the public schools and the private schools simultaneously. And the temptation will be too great to resist the pleas of the private corporations running the private schools, because those corporations will be able to return portions of those funds to the legislators who are kind enough to support this ill-founded proposal.

Kentucky voters need to send a loud and clear message to Frankfort in November:

We will never vote to amend our constitution to the detriment of our public schools!


Written by Chuck Witt, a retired architect, a former newspaper columnist, and a lifelong resident of Winchester. Cross-posted from WinCity Voices.

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