charter schools

Liz Schlemmer

School choice is a big buzzword in education policy, and in many parts of the country, opinions on it usually run along party lines. Republicans tend to be for school choice, and Democrats against — however, that’s not the case among all of Kentucky’s candidates for governor.

School choice covers a wide range of policies that all do one thing: give students more support to attend schools outside the realm of traditional public education. Relative to other states in the South and Midwest, Kentucky has been slow to adopt school choice measures like charter schools and scholarship tax credits.


Bevin, Devos Promote School Choice Policies at Event in Lexington

Apr 17, 2019
J. Tyler Franklin

The Trump administration's top education official on Wednesday urged school choice supporters in Kentucky — a coalition that includes the state's Republican governor — to "keep fighting" for initiatives aimed at giving students more flexibility to find their right fit.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos teamed with Gov. Matt Bevin to promote school choice policies in a state where political activism has surged among public school teachers who have staged statehouse rallies to challenge pension and education proposals.

J. Tyler Franklin

During the upcoming Kentucky General Assembly, lawmakers will consider taking up a variety of proposals like a new attempt to change state worker pension benefits, funding for charter schools and limiting citizens’ right to sue other individuals and businesses.

Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office for the third year in a row, meaning they won’t need any help from Democrats to pass bills or constitutional amendments if they can stay united.

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The Kentucky Board of Education has approved new high school graduation requirements, mandating students demonstrate competency in basic math and reading, and complete benchmarks intended to show they are ready for work or college before they can graduate.

The legislature still has to sign off on the policy.

Most of the new requirements will go into effect for freshmen starting high school next fall and the full policy will take effect for subsequent classes.

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Kentucky’s Department of Education will lobby the legislature to fund charter schools, hold back third graders who don’t meet reading standards and take the power to hire school principals away from school-based decision making councils.

Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis presented the priorities to the Kentucky Board of Education on Wednesday. The board voted unanimously to sign on to the agenda.

State lawmakers passed a charter schools bill in 2017, but never created a permanent funding mechanism for the independently managed but publicly funded schools.

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The opening of charter schools in Kentucky could be delayed if a two-year budget passed this week by the General Assembly is signed by Governor Bevin.

The spending plan contains no funding for charters, which operate with greater independence than traditional schools and with a different level of accountability. 

Lawmakers approved the creation of charter schools in last year’s legislative session.  The state then began accepting applications with a goal of having some of the alternative public schools operating by this fall.

Charter Schools in Kentucky Could Be Delayed

Feb 13, 2018
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Charter schools might not come to Kentucky this year after all.

Last year, Kentucky became the 44th state to make charter schools legal. But the mechanism to pay for them expires June 30.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin did not include a funding formula for charter schools in his proposed two-year spending plan, indicating he preferred lawmakers pass a law so the funding mechanism would not expire every two years. But several leading Republican lawmakers say they don't support that in a tight budget year.

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A group of Kentuckians tasked with setting up a framework for charter schools to operate is officially down to work. 

The Charter Schools Advisory Council held its first meeting on Monday and began developing regulations on how to implement the alternative public schools.  One of the members is Dr. Gary Houchens, a professor at Western Kentucky University. 

"It's a lot of stringent oversight of the process, and I think both charter applicants and authorizers will be happy with the structures that we're putting into place," Houchens told WKU Public Radio.

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An organization representing public school employees in Kentucky is worried about the impact charter schools will have on the commonwealth.

 

A law that went into effect this year allows applications for charter schools in Kentucky for the first time. Charter schools will receive taxpayer funding, but will also be exempt from most state regulations governing public schools. Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, is worried charter schools will focus on profits, not children.

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Today is the day that new laws passed earlier this year by the Kentucky General Assembly take effect.

Gov. Matt Bevin signed more than 130 bills into law, dealing with issues ranging from charter schools to drug control to doubling campaign contributions for state politicians.

This year’s legislative session was the first in which Republicans had control of both the state House and Senate as well as the governor’s office.

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The Kentucky School Boards Association says it has some questions about an executive order by Governor Matt Bevin. 

The order creates a Charter Schools Advisory Council that will help implement charters for the first time in the commonwealth. 

“The historic charter school legislation passed during this year’s General Assembly session represents a truly momentous step forward in providing quality choices for Kentucky’s most vulnerable students,” said Gov. Bevin in a statement. “This advisory council will play a vital role in ensuring the success of this exciting new educational option. Public charter schools will create the promise of real opportunity for young people and their families where hope does not currently exist.”

Charter school legislation signed into law by Governor Bevin says local school boards and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington would be the primary authorizers of charter schools.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the charter schools bill into law, allowing the alternative institutions to open up this fall after an application process.

Kentucky is the 44th state in the country to allow charter schools, which will receive public funding and be exempt from most state regulations in an effort to provide innovative education.

Bevin tweeted to mark the occasion:

The legislation was a major priority for Republicans in Kentucky, who had control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in state history this year.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

As the dust settles on the main part of the legislative session, the Republican-led General Assembly has passed most of its priorities.

A handful of bills approved in early January have already been signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin. Those include a “right-to-work” law, a repeal of the prevailing wage on public works projects, and anti-abortion legislation.

But a flood of bills — including the authorization of charter schools in Kentucky and REAL ID legislation — passed at the end of session still await the governor’s signature.

Bevin now has a 10-day period to review legislation and either veto bills, sign them into law or ignore them — another way to make them law. The legislature will return on March 29 and 30 for two final working days, during which they will likely give approval to even more bills that haven’t passed yet.

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UPDATE 9:31 p.m.: The Kentucky House has approved legislation authorizing charter schools in the state. The final vote was 53-43.

After weeks of not moving, the legislation emerged in a legislative committee Wednesday, passed out of the Senate in the afternoon and the House in the evening.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins objected to the quick pace of the debate.

“For something that is this major, for the public policy of the commonwealth of Kentucky, I think that’s bad business,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s the way we’ve done it on other major reform that has been successful here in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

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The chair of the Senate Education Committee says he expects a revised version of the charter schools bill to be presented next week so that lawmakers have time to pass the legislation before time runs out on the General Assembly.

Lawmakers have been meeting privately with interest groups this week and several disagreements remain over whether to allow the schools to take root statewide, how many entities should be able to authorize charters and how to ensure the organizations won’t sap money from traditional public schools.

“I anticipate there probably would be agreement on the bill but again, I can’t be 100 percent on it,” says Sen. Mike Wilson, a Republican from Bowling Green. “I feel pretty confident that we will end up with a charter school bill.”

Wilson says there are issues that need to be “cleaned up” in the bill and that meetings have been taking place between members of both legislative chambers.

“Everybody has kind of different ideas and the whole idea of working together is compromise,” he says.

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