Linda Blackford, columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, describes the long-standing extremist goal of privatizing public schools and shows how Republican legislators are determined to introduce vouchers, which would harm the community public schools that enroll 90% of the state’s students.

Fortunately, voters in Kentucky threw out DeVos disciple Matt Bevin and replaced him with Andy Beshear, a friend of public schools. I hope the legislature has enough Democrats to prevent the Republicans from overriding a veto.

She writes:

At the macro level, this is an attack on public education, which is foundational to our democracy, and by the way, is actually guaranteed in the Kentucky Constitution. There has always been a basic compact that everyone’s taxes support public school for everyone because they educate the children that private schools reject. (Not to mention many private schools in the South were only started to avoid desegregation.) If people really think more students should go to private schools, then they should help private schools raise more funds for scholarships, not try to game their state taxes. In Kentucky, the bill is being pushed heavily by a widespread network of Catholic schools, which could afford many, many more scholarships if they didn’t have to pay out so much money in clergy sex abuse scandals.

Of course, public schools, like private ones, could do a better job with some of their students, but the answer is not to further starve schools for funding, or siphon off a stream of students to private schools with little accountability or oversight. Public education is a public good that should be supported by the public, not diverted and destroyed by our elected public servants. Although he was himself educated privately, FDR in 1936 noted that his administration’s support of public education throughout the Great Depression “has given to this country a population more literate, more cultured, in the best sense of the word, more aware of the complexities of modern civilized life than ever before in our history.”

Public education is still the linchpin to prosperity for most of Kentucky’s population, but many legislators seem determined to starve it. Sending a few hundred kids to private school won’t make this state great. Supporting our public schools, from kindergarten to college, can.

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