(The Center Square) – A report released last week shows Kentucky has quite a bit of room for growth regarding educational choice initiatives.
Kentucky was among a dozen states receiving a D in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2023 Index of Education Freedom. Overall, it was ranked 30th among all 50 states.
The index replaces the council’s Report Card on American Education, which it used to grade states on various metrics. In a statement, Andrew Handel, the director of the council’s education and workforce development task force, said that since public education funding should follow the student, the new report will look at states’ policies that allow families to pick the best education option for their children.
“We no longer look at things like student test score data, for example, because it can be strongly influenced by student demographics, income, and other factors,” he said. “Instead, our goal is for this new publication to look to the future by highlighting the state policies that maximize parental empowerment, education freedom, and student achievement.”
ALEC ranked the states based on five categories. Kentucky received a B for its homeschooling policies and C grades for its open enrollment and funding and financing initiatives. It earned a D for virtual education and was one of seven states to get a failing grade for charter schools.
Educational choice legislation has found a more receptive audience in Frankfort since Republicans won control of the Kentucky House of Representatives after the 2016 election. However, that does not mean it’s been smooth sailing in the General Assembly, even with the GOP holding veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate.
Legislation to allow charter schools passed in 2017, but it did not come with a funding mechanism. Because of that, no charter schools have opened in the state. A funding bill passed the legislature over Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto last year but faces a legal challenge.
The General Assembly has also passed bills in close votes to create educational opportunity accounts that would allow families to receive funding to put their children in other schools. However, that was struck down as unconstitutional. Now, proponents plan to put the question before voters as a constitutional amendment, perhaps as soon as next year’s general election.
Of Kentucky’s neighboring states, only Virginia (31st) and Illinois (39th) placed lower in the study. Illinois was one of 13 states to receive a failing grade.
Three of Kentucky’s neighbors – Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia – ranked in the top 10. Coming in third nationally, Indiana was one of only three states to earn an A grade overall from ALEC.
Overall, Florida earned the highest score in the report, while Rhode Island and Massachusetts received the lowest.