Protesters gather on the Capitol steps in Frankfort in April 2018. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

Kentucky superintendents and school board members, including those in Jefferson County, are pushing against scholarship tax credits as critics of the proposed legislation weigh another sickout to close schools in protest.

Legislation to provide tax credits to those who donate to scholarships for private schools, specifically House Bill 205, was introduced early February. But it reemerged as district leaders criticized the concept on social media over the weekend, saying that it would pull money the state doesn’t have away from underfunded public schools.

If passed, the bill allows up to $25 million in tax breaks for the donations, which are thought to offset the cost of private schools for low-income students and increase school choice. Opponents of the bill say that $25 million could be better utilized to improve public education, pointing out multiple cuts over the past years.

Daviess County Superintendent Matt Robbins tweeted, “Didn’t realize there was $25M on the table!” before launching into a list of ways public schools need funding.

Professional development and transportation, both of which saw their state funding slashed last year, were on his list. Teacher raises and funds to implement new school safety legislation, which came without funding, also made the cut.

“Let’s adequately fund existing pub school’s needs 1st!” Robbins said.

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio shared screenshots of tweets from fellow superintendents on Sunday, adding that he is also opposed to the legislation.

Shortly after Pollio’s message, the JCPS board vice chairman Chris Kolb pitched the idea of district and board leaders protesting against the bill in Frankfort Monday and Tuesday, when HB 205 is slated for a floor vote. Another board member Chris Brady suggested he would support a superintendent closing a district to protest the bill — “hypothetically, of course,” he added.

“Hypothetically, if a superintendent were to call off school in their district to protest a policy that would insidiously harm students, the community, and the commonwealth, then I wouldn’t hold that against the super,” Brady tweeted Sunday evening. “In fact, I’d support that decision.”

Meanwhile, teachers and public education advocates, still brewing after last week’s sickout to protest changes to the teachers’ pension board didn’t stop a committee passage of the bill, are weighing even more school closures this week.

House Bill 525, which caused sickouts that shut down JCPS and seven other districts last Thursday, is scheduled for a floor vote Monday. But with the tax credit bill likely also making it to a floor vote Tuesday or later this week, some are pushing for a four-day sickout.

“Parents, you might want to start looking into a backup plan for school this week,” a post on Dear JCPS’ Facebook account said Sunday. “Another walkout to protect public schools from privatization threats is possible as early as tomorrow, and could last until Thursday.” The post labeled HB 525 the “most immediate threat,” followed by tax credits.

Gay Adelmann, a co-founder of Dear JCPS, said her group is asking all JCPS teachers to call in sick Monday, if not longer. JCPS spokeswoman Renee Murphy said teacher callouts for Monday look “average” thus far.

The move signals a potential break between JCPS stakeholders and KY 120 United as some in Kentucky’s largest district feel as if the larger movement is not doing enough to fight against a perceived attack on public education.

As of 6 p.m., KY 120 United, the larger statewide movement responsible for Thursday’s sickout, had not called for another protest in Frankfort.

This story may be updated. 

Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy.Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern.Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies.Email Olivia at [email protected]