Politics

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.

Kentucky is one of seven states that don’t allow charters — schools that use public dollars but are operated by organizations besides the state like nonprofits, for-profit companies, or groups of parents.

In 1989, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the state’s entire public education system violated the state constitution’s provision for an “efficient system of common school throughout the state,” forcing the legislature to re-create the entire K-12 system.

Beshear said it was unclear whether charters would qualify as common schools and that the legislature should be careful “because that case sets a constitutional requirement for a sufficiently funded public school system.”

The former Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives blocked charter school legislation for years, but Republicans now control both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion.

Last week, the Kentucky Board of Education approved a list of principles to guide state policymakers if the legislature passes a charter school bill.

They recommended that charters be approved by local school boards or the state board and be run by nonprofit groups that aren’t governed by religious organizations.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.