charter schools

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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.

Kentucky LRC

After a lengthy debate and rushed legislative process, the state House of Representatives has passed a charter schools bill. The measure passed 56-39.

The legislation now heads to the state Senate, where it’s expected to pass.

Under the bill, private organizations and community members can apply to open up a charter school. Local school districts and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville would be charged with approving or denying the charters, though denials could be appealed to the state board of education.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, a Republican from Lexington, said that the policy would create more competition in Kentucky’s public education system.

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Gov. Matt Bevin announced his support for the latest charter school bill introduced in the General Assembly. The legislation would allow non-profit or for-profit organizations to create new charter schools with the permission of a local school district or the state Department of Education.

House Education Chair Bam Carney, a Republican from Campbellsville, said he envisions three to five of the institutions opening up in Kentucky by the 2018-19 school year.

“I would prefer it kinda grow slowly,” Carney said during a news conference on Tuesday.

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The chairman of the Kentucky House Education Committee has introduced legislation that would allow charter schools to open in the commonwealth.

Unlike past versions limited to pilot projects, the bill introduced Friday by House Education Committee Chairman John "Bam" Carney would allow public charter schools statewide.

The Campbellsville Republican plans to have his bill heard in committee next week.

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When Kentucky lawmakers return to Frankfort next week, they’re expected to take up charter school legislation.

Republican leaders are confident that some form of charter school enabling legislation will pass this session. But now, the debate has shifted to whether to permit the schools across the state or just in Lexington and Louisville.

A Divided Majority?

Kentucky is one of only seven states in the nation without charter schools, and most people predict that will change this year. But earlier this week at a meeting of Greater Louisville Inc., the Louisville area’s chamber of commerce, House Speaker Jeff Hoover tapped the brakes slightly on a statewide charter school bill.

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A key Senate committee today voted to approve the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a school choice activist and billionaire Republican donor, to be Secretary of Education, despite fierce objections of Senate Democrats, teachers' unions and others. There's much speculation as to exactly how she might carry out President Trump's stated priority of increasing school choice.

A significant clue comes from the American Federation for Children, the advocacy organization DeVos chaired until she was nominated. AFC supports both publicly funded charter schools and even more so, "private school choice" — publicly sponsored programs that give families money to spend on tuition at private schools.

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Kentucky is one of seven states in the U.S. that doesn’t allow charter schools. But the General Assembly is likely to soon approve a bill that would make the organizations a reality in the Bluegrass.

Lawmakers will return next week to consider the measure. So what exactly are charter schools, and are they effective?

Supporters have pushed to open Kentucky up to charter schools for years, but opponents, most notably the state teacher’s union, successfully lobbied to keep the policy from passing enabling legislation into law.

During a legislative hearing last year, Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner gave an impassioned speech in favor of charters, calling out the Kentucky Educators Association for opposing them.

Ryland Barton

Attorney General Andy Beshear says if the legislature approves a bill to allow charter schools in the state, it needs to make sure public schools are adequately funded under the new system to avoid stepping on the toes of a landmark state Supreme Court ruling.

“I think that the legislature needs to be careful that any money that they’re going to siphon out of the public school system they are replacing,” Beshear said.

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