Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speak with the press following a roundtable on school choice in Lexington on April 17, 2019.CREDIT JOSH JAMES / WUKY
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was in Lexington Wednesday to pitch a federal tax credit she argues would expand school choice.
The secretary’s plan would allot up to $5 billion in federal funds for tax incentives aimed at spurring state-based scholarships, which could be used for private schooling, apprenticeships, special education, and other programs. DeVos stressed that states could opt in or out of the plan and tailor their programs.
“Kentucky could put together one or more programs that are going to give more students more choices to find the right fit for their education,” the Trump administration official told a roundtable populated by school choice supporters.
But the idea has received pushback both from the left and right – with Democrats warning the credits would siphon away dollars that could be used to fund ailing public schools and the conservative Heritage Foundation worrying the plan could open up private schools to further regulation under a different administration.
“Clearly, we have a ways to go to convince enough of our congressmen and women to support this at the federal level,” DeVos said. “But this is a proposal that the president and the vice president are very, very supportive of.”
It’s an initiative that’s struggled to gain a foothold in the commonwealth. This year, a similar state proposal failed to emerge from the Kentucky General Assembly. The state also has yet to fund charter schools, which were okayed in 2017.
Lexington lawmakers issued a statement saying it appeared none of the Fayette County Legislative delegation was invited to meet or participate during DeVos’ visit.
Asked about the lack of representaton from public school districts, Gov. Bevin responded, “Every single person who sat around this table cares about the children, not about funding, not about territory, not about power, not about politics.”
The Kentucky Education Association tweeted that Bevin and DeVos are trying to “monetize education and make education an entitlement of the rich.”
Following her swing through Lexington, the secretary departed for Marshall County High School, where she was scheduled to announce additional grant money to help the Kentucky school continue its ongoing recovery efforts in the wake of a deadly 2018 school shooting.