By JIM WATERS
The Bluegrass Institute
A recent press conference by superintendents at the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative in Shelbyville featured lots of jaw-flapping but little-to-no evidence about how attacking scholarship tax-credit legislation giving poor and middle-class Kentucky biological and foster care parents and guardians the same opportunity as rich folks to give their children a private education is in students' best interest.
Listening to these highly paid administrators talk about the awfulness of such a possibility, you'd think the great education sky was crashing down on Kentucky's public schools.
Meanwhile, more than 270,000 students are benefiting from such programs in 18 other states where -- while Chicken Little is nowhere to be found -- plenty of evidence confirms that a growing multitude of students are getting a better education as a result of scholarships funded via voluntary contributions from individuals and businesses who receive a credit against their state's tax liability while poor and foster-care families get the chance of a lifetime.
The Urban Institute recently released a report showing poor students in Florida's scholarship tax credit program -- the nation's largest with 108,000 students in 1,800 private schools -- have higher college enrollment and completion rates than their public-school peers.
It's the second such study done by the Urban Institute in the last couple of years reporting the same results.
Yet the Courier-Journal's headline slapped on top of a story reporting these very results and purporting to analyze how such a program would affect Kentucky schools screams: "Florida's program is spiraling."
It's unlikely most taxpayers, business owners, legislators and black or Hispanic mothers in Louisville's West End, inner-city Lexington or the significant minority communities in Northern Kentucky and Christian County would consider a program "spiraling" when 14,000 are on its waiting list and 57 percent of its participants attend college despite the fact that 67 percent are minorities and 54 percent live in single-parent homes.
But the superintendents' discussion was not: "Golly gee, I wonder how we can make our education system so effective that the guardians of these at-risk students who fill most of the seats in charter and private choice schools nationwide -- won't be so desperate for alternatives."
Instead, the supers parroted completely unsubstantiated claims hurled by radical anti-school choice ideologues who run the state teachers' union, and who also run aimlessly around Frankfort bellowing boorishly about how empowering parents with options drains funding from public schools.
"We cannot continue to allow the state to siphon funds away from public education," Franklin County Superintendent Mark Kopp moaned at that press conference.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling scoffed at such assertions in upholding Arizona's first-in-the-nation scholarship tax credit program.
"When Arizona taxpayers choose to contribute to STOs (School Tuition Organizations), they spend their own money, not money the State has collected from respondents or from other taxpayers," then-Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. "Like contributions that lead to charitable tax deductions, contributions yielding STO tax credits are not owed to the state and, in fact, pass directly from taxpayers to private organizations."
Kennedy's most consequential point branded the American Civil Liberties Union's assertion, which opposed Arizona's program using the same argument as Kopp, a "contrary position" which "assumes that income should be treated as if it were government property even if it has not come into the tax collector's hands. That premise finds no basis in standing jurisprudence."
The only thing spiraling here are the arguments of school-choice opponents who oppose a scholarship tax credit program for Kentucky families and somehow -- but very wrongly -- think these dollars and our kids belong to the government and its schools.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky's free-market think tank.