House Education Chair Files New Charter School Bill

Feb 21, 2017
Originally published on February 21, 2017 2:01 pm

A new bill that would create a system for charter schools to open up across Kentucky has been filed in the state House of Representatives. If approved, charters would be able to begin enrolling students in the 2018-19 academic year.

Unlike another bill that would allow school boards, universities, the state or the mayors of Lexington and Louisville to authorize charters, this legislation would allow only local school boards to review and approve charter school applications.

If denied, the requests could be appealed to the state board of education.

Rep. Bam Carney, a Republican from Campbellsville and chair of the House Education Committee, said in a statement that even if the bill passes, he believes traditional schools will continue to educate the vast majority of Kentucky students.

“I also believe that this bill will set Kentucky on a path toward providing more public school options for students and families,” Carney said. “For more than two decades, public charter schools have been making a difference for students in other states and it’s past time that Kentucky allow these proven, innovative public schools.”

Kentucky is one of seven states that don’t allow charters. The policy has been pushed by Gov. Matt Bevin and Hal Heiner, secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Heiner has founded two charter school advocacy organizations in Kentucky over the years.

Under the bill, teachers, parents, school administrators, community residents, public organizations and nonprofit organizations could apply to form a charter school. The organizations could not be religiously affiliated.

Charter schools would receive state funding to educate students, though they would not receive transportation funds. A 3 percent “authorizer administrative fee” would be withheld from charter funding.

School districts would be obligated to provide transportation for local students to attend charters, though they would also keep transportation funding allotted to students who attend the schools.

Local school districts would be in charge of monitoring the academic and financial health of charter schools, which would operate under contracts lasting 3 to 5 years. Charters could be revoked immediately if the school district finds that the organizations threaten the health and safety of their own students.

Two charter school bills have already been filed in the legislature. One, filed by Louisville Republican Rep. Phil Moffett, would also allow charters to open up statewide but would enable more entities to authorize charters.

The other, filed by Louisville Democratic Rep. Gerald Neal, would allow the organizations to open up only in Lexington and Louisville.

Under Carney’s bill, charters would give enrollment preference to students residing in the school district around a charter, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and students attending low-achieving schools.

Preference would also be given to siblings of students already enrolled. The bill allows preference to be given to children of the charter school’s board of directors — as long as they don’t make up more than 10 percent of the school’s population.

Otherwise, students would be selected through a lottery.

Charter schools would be allowed to compete against traditional public schools in athletic events.

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