FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Supporters of a controversial school choice bill staged a rally Thursday morning outside the Kentucky State Capitol.  

Organizers said as many as 1,000 people, including students bused in from private and parochial schools, gathered to push for passage of HB 134, which would give tax credits for contributions to qualified organizations that grant private school scholarships.

The bill’s sponsor, House Education Chairman Bam Carney (R-Campbellsville), spoke at the rally. He said the bill requires the scholarships to go to low- and middle-income families, students with special needs and those in foster care.

“We want to make sure we targeted students who financially needed that support,” Carney said.

Ann Buchanan, who has two children at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, was among those who stood in the cold to back the bill.

“Anybody ... regardless of cost, should be able to have a quality education,” she said.

Carney, who is a public school teacher, said the bill is not an attack on public education, as some critics claim

“Our public schools, for the most part, I think are doing a great job," he said. "But it doesn't meet the need for every child."

Opponents say tax payers should not foot the bill for private education.

Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Louisville) said the bill would drain funds from the state's coffers at a time when public schools are already being cut.

“We don't have enough revenue in the state as it is,” Jenkins said. “When you are taking, dollar-for-dollar, taxes out of our revenue base, it's just a very dangerous situation, not only for the school systems but for other things the state has to fund.”

Carney promised he will fight to restore public school funding.

“While we're moving that ball forward, we want to provide options for families,” he said.

This is the third time the school choice bill has been proposed. Carney said it does face uphill sledding, even with a Republican House and Senate, and support from Gov. Matt Bevin.

He said school choice could be part of a larger tax reform package.

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