Southern Education Foundation Submits Amicus Brief Opposing Kentucky School Voucher Program
Amicus Brief Alleges Kentucky Law Is Unconstitutional, Undermines Public Education
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September 11, 2021 (Frankfort, KY)–The Southern Education Foundation (SEF), a 154-year-old nonprofit dedicated to achieving education equity in the South, today joined five other organizations in filing an amicus brief opposing new Kentucky’s school voucher law, House Bill 563 (HB 563). SEF sided with the plaintiffs in the case, led by the Council for Better Education. In the brief, SEF and the other organizations maintain that the law violates Kentucky’s Constitution by undermining the state’s ability to equally provide a high-quality education to all students. Rather than increasing educational outcomes for students, the law would increase inequity and decrease funding available for public schools. The amicus brief requests that the Court grant summary judgment for the plaintiffs.
The brief details the many ways in which HB 563 would be detrimental to student well-being and public education, thereby violating the state’s constitutional obligations. The voucher program created through the law would divert funds from public education to private schools, rather than giving more options to students. The bill would also allow the most vulnerable students to potentially be discriminated against by private schools who would be free to turn them away or discipline them in a discriminatory manner.
Arguments presented in the brief against the new law include that:
- research shows vouchers have no positive effect on student achievement outcomes;
- the history of voucher programs is closely tied to racism and would exacerbate school segregation;
- vouchers contribute to economic segregation since they often do not cover the full costs of tuition;
- voucher programs allow for the discrimination against vulnerable students;
- voucher programs are subject to little oversight and accountability; and
- voucher programs increase the financial burden on public schools and undermine their ability to provide a high-quality education equally for all.
The brief asserts that HB 563 would have a negative effect on the public education system, particularly for students who are the most vulnerable. As a non-profit dedicated to promoting equity in education, the Southern Education Foundation firmly opposes this law. The Atlanta based non-profit believes that the law would only further deepen inequities by taking funding and resources away from a public education system that serves the majority of students of color and low-income students, in order to redistribute these public funds to a private education system that would be inaccessible to most students, and mainly only benefit those who would have already been able to afford such an education.
The brief describes how research has shown vouchers to be harmful, and states that:
Study after study reveals that private school vouchers negatively affect student achievement, exacerbate segregation, facilitate state support for discrimination, and undermine the public school systems that welcome and serve all students.
Additionally, the brief points out that voucher programs have not been shown to improve academic achievement, nothing that:
Indeed, seven out of nine large-scale studies conducted between 2015 and 2019—some of which were spearheaded by voucher advocates—have found detrimental effects from voucher programs, while the remaining two showed no statistically significant effects on learning.6
Researchers comparing voucher students to similarly situated public school students routinely find that voucher students perform worse academically.
The new Kentucky law would help fund a school voucher program by giving tax credits in exchange for donating to private “account granting organizations” that would distribute vouchers or directly pay private schools. This is one of several methods that have been used nationwide to fund private school voucher programs. SEF submitted the amicus brief together with Public Funds Public Schools, the American Federation of Teachers, the Kentucky Conference of the NAACP, Pastors for Children, and Pastors for Kentucky Children.
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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at https://southerneducation.org