Kentucky’s First Charter School Applicant Loses Appeal

Feb 26, 2020

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The state’s first charter school applicant, River Cities Academy, lost its appeal to the Kentucky Board of Education. The board decided Tuesday not to overturn a decision by Newport Independent Schools to deny the group a charter.

A group of parents in Northern Kentucky wanted to open the state’s first charter school, called River Cities Academy (RCA), pulling students from six districts along the river. According to the application, the school was to serve a “diverse learner population” in grades K-8, and focus on closing the achievement gap through experiential learning.

“RCA will provide an experiential learning and case-based learning theme throughout all grade levels in the building offering differentiated instruction and a unique focus to attract families and students that may be disenfranchised and/or not performing well in a traditional public school classroom setting,” part of the application reads.

But the board of Newport Independent Schools denied the application in December, saying it appeared the group had plagiarized part of its application, that they did not show they had the competency to provide a quality education, and that they did not appear to have real community buy-in.

River Cities Academy appealed to the state board of education. But the state board upheld Newport’s decision, saying the school was “not financially sustainable” because there is no way to fund the school with public dollars.

Charter schools are legal in Kentucky, but the General Assembly has not determined how they would be funded.

“Authorizing [River Cities Academy’s] application for the operation of a charter school when [River Cities Academy’s] projected revenue to operate the school is premised on receipt of public funds it will not actually receive is contrary to the best interest of students and the community,” the board’s order reads.

State law says the board’s decision is final, but the charter group could appeal to the courts.