Kentucky's persistently low-achieving schools would be able to become charter schools to improve performance and test scores under a bill discussed Tuesday in the state Senate Education Committee.
The bill adds charters as a fifth option for what the state now calls "priority schools—schools that persistently get low scores. The current options include re-staffing of teachers, firing the principal, giving the school up to outside management or closing the schools.
Kentucky is one of seven states that doesn't allow for some sort of charter school—public schools that are generally governed independently from local school boards and given flexibility in teaching methods. Past efforts which would have opened charters to schools that weren't persistently low-performing have failed to pass through the General Assembly.
This legislation, Senate Bill 176, offers a different path, because only those schools who qualify as low-achieving could apply for charter status to their local school board.
State Sen. Mike Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican, said the proposed charters would have to be a public school and use public funds.
"A charter school must be non-sectarian, non-religious, non-home based and tuition free," Wilson said.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told lawmakers he supports the idea of allowing charter schools to become a fifth option.
But Kentucky Education Association Executive Director Mary Ann Blankenship says her organization opposes the idea.
"We don't believe that the research from around the country about charter schools is indicative that this really is an option that has promised to help a lot of kids," she said.
The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote on the charter schools bill soon.