Leaders of a defunct organization supporting charter schools in Kentucky have launched a new group that will host a panel of charter supporters including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul tomorrow in Louisville.
“We’ve had a loose coalition for a couple years now and I wanted to sharpen the focus, pull the coalition together and sharpen the focus on public charter schools for Kentucky,” says Hal Heiner, chairman of the Kentucky Charter Schools Association.
Heiner is a former Louisville Metro councilman and Republican mayoral candidate. He also chaired Kentuckians Advocating Reforms in Education (KARE), which ran aggressive TV ads in support of charter schools last year.
When asked how much funding KCSA has in its reserves, Heiner said:
“The new organization just came into being around two weeks ago. So I would say as of today pretty close to zero. But I suspect we will have sufficient funds to education Kentuckians on the benefits [of charter schools].”
The new KCSA organization includes support from the Black Alliance for Educational Options, National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, the Democrats for Education Reform and Students for Education Reform, Heiner says.
KCSA has three board members including Heiner, University of Kentucky’s Dr. Wayne Lewis, and Milton Seymour with the Justice Resource Center in Louisville.
On Thursday morning, KCSA will host a nine-member panel to speak in support of charters, including McConnell and Paul. Group officials say Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens will be in attendance, but will not participate on the panel.
JCPS has been opposed to charter schools along with the Jefferson County Teachers Association, which charter supporters have attacked for creating barriers to getting legislation passed.
Kentucky is one of eight states that don’t have some form of charter school legislation and the issue of whether charters result in better student outcomes has been debated for years.
Supporters say charters give students more choice and allows non-public school officials to manage the school. This often leads schools to try innovative programs or to work outside the rules and regulations that public schools are tied to.
Opponents says charters take money out of the public school system and are not proven to be more successful than the traditional school system.
Heiner says Kentucky doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” with regards to charter school legislation and says several states have models for how charter schools could work in the commonwealth.
There’s currently an uphill battle for supporters of charter schools, namely the Kentucky House Education Committee, which hasn’t come close to passing legislation in years. Heiner says the committee and state House remain “rigidly opposed” to charters which is “very disappointed.”
The state Senate has been successful at passing charter school legislation.
Heiner hasn’t ruled out a potential run for governor in 2015, and he says the next administration should make education and school choice part of its platform. He adds Kentucky’s education system is adequately funded and the real question is whether the money is being adequately spent.