Last Thursday, Michael Q. McShane and Jason Bedrick explained how Kentucky governor Andy Beshear had vetoed what would be one of the most expansive school-choice bills in the nation. As they wrote:
For the first time in the Bluegrass State’s history, an educational-choice bill cleared both legislative chambers. Previously, no choice bill had even cleared a legislative committee. Despite widespread support for choice programs nationally and at the state level, Beshear vetoed the legislation on Wednesday, calling the proposal “the end of public education as we know it.”
House Bill 563, establishing “Education Opportunity Accounts,” in Kentucky, would be one of the most expansive K–12 education-savings-account (ESA) policies in the nation. Kentucky’s ESAs would be available to students from low- and middle-income families living in one of the state’s eight largest counties, with lower-income families getting first priority.
Even more so than traditional school vouchers, ESAs open a world of educational opportunity. Families would be able to use ESAs not just for private-school tuition, but also for tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, online courses, special-education therapy, and more. They can even save unused funds for future educational expenses. This is what Beshear rejected yesterday, when he vetoed the bill.
There is an additional element of interest to this story. Beshear is not merely obstructing educational choice; he is also denying to others what he has exercised himself, sending his own children to a private school of his choosing. When pressed on this, Beshear often identifies himself as a proud product of Kentucky public schools. But as Corey DeAngelis, who has written for us on school choice, explains, this is not entirely true:
But Beshear recently sent his own children to private school. I’m glad his family had that opportunity. Every family should seek out the best options for their children. But why turn around and fight against school choice for others?
Why did Beshear send his children to private schools if they were “unaccountable?” And why was it okay for his family to “take money away” from public schools when he chose private for his kids? In fact, taking his kid out of a public school had the same effect on district finances as a less fortunate kid leaving with a scholarship because school districts are funded based on enrollment counts.
When asked by a reporter about this hypocrisy in 2019, Beshear attempted to defend himself by pointing out that he is “a public school graduate.” During his press conference to announce the veto on Wednesday, he reiterated that he is “a proud product of public education. A proud graduate of Kentucky’s public schools,” and that his “commitment to public education runs deep.”
Although it’s technically true that Beshear graduated from a public school in the state, newly surfaced documents reveal that the governor hasn’t been telling the entire story. An article published on April 25, 1985, in a Madisonville, Kentucky, newspaper indicates that Beshear, along with his brother Jeff, attended a private primary school at the time. Beshear left those details out of the conversation every step of the way, conveniently helping him deflect accusations of hypocrisy.
There’s still a chance the bill Beshear vetoed makes it into law anyway, if the Kentucky legislature can get its act together. Let’s hope so. If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that reforming schools so that they serve students should be a high priority.