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Senate OKs expanding KEES eligibility to homeschool students, including those who take alternative entrance exam

By: - January 23, 2024 5:37 pm

Senate Republican Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, sponsored the bill expanding KEES eligibility to “non certified” schools. (LRC Public Information)

FRANKFORT — Kentucky senators approved a bill that would make homeschool students eligible for a state-funded scholarship, but some raised concerns over the inclusion of a Christian-backed alternative college entrance exam as an equivalent test. 

The Senate passed Senate Bill 7 with a vote of 33-4 on Tuesday. The GOP legislation would make students from “noncertified schools” eligible for the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program. Currently, students from certified high schools earn a scholarship from the program based on their GPA and college entrance exam score. 

However, a few Senate Democrats objected to a part of the bill that would allow the Classic Learning Test (CLT) as an accepted equivalent for the scholarship to other standardized exams, like the ACT or SAT. The CLT was created in 2015 as an alternative to other exams that focus on “current trends in American culture and legislation.” 

“I do believe that we have options that if children don’t want to take the CLT, they can take the ACT or the SATs, and they don’t have to take the CLT,” said the bill’s primary sponsor, Majority Whip Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green. “It’s an option that is available, that will be available.” 

The no votes on the bill were Louisville Democrats Sens. Karen Berg, Cassie Chambers Armstrong, Denise Harper Angel and Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerald Neal. While explaining her vote, Berg said she supports the part of the bill that makes homeschooled students eligible for KEES money.

Karen Berg (LRC Public Information)

“Unequivocally that is a goal I think everybody in this room can support,” Berg said. “My problem comes when you have a different level of requirements depending on what you believe in and what you don’t.” 

Another Louisville Democrat, Minority Floor Whip David Yates raised concern with the inclusion of the CTL in the bill but said he voted for the legislation to expand KEES money despite his concerns about the “apples-to-apples” comparison of the CLT to the ACT and SAT. He did not want to ‘“undermine so many students” who have taken the ACT or SAT because the scholarship should award their success. 

According to CLT’s website, five colleges and universities in Kentucky accept the test scores. None of them are public. 

Florida became the first state in the country to allow universities on a wide scale to accept the CLT for admissions after its governing board approved the test last year. The test was previously eligible for Florida’s statewide scholarship program. Critics of the test say CLT heavily emphasizes biblical passages and traditional Western thought.

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.

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