Education Politics

The Kentucky Board of Education has approved a list of principles to guide state policymakers if the legislature passes a bill clearing the way for charter schools in the state.

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.

The state board recommended that if a charter school bill is approved, the organizations should be run by nonprofit groups that aren’t governed by religious organizations.

The 12-member board also said that the state board or local school boards should be in charge of reviewing the charter applications and that the organizations shouldn’t “detrimentally impact” the funding to “common” schools in public school districts.

The legislature will have the final say on what a charter school system would look like in Kentucky and how to fund it.

Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said that the principles approved Wednesday would guide officials’ conversations with lawmakers during the General Assembly.

“We are to be the education experts in the room,” said Pruitt.

He said that if a charter bill passes, the Department of Education would likely create a charter division to review applications and oversee the organizations.

Gov. Matt Bevin is in favor of allowing charter schools to open up in Kentucky; he campaigned on the issue in 2015.

For years, charter school legislation has passed the Republican-led Senate and died in the Democratic-led House. Now that the GOP has control of the governor’s mansion and supermajorities in both legislative chambers, charters will have a much easier chance of passing into law.

The board of education recommended:

  • Local boards of education should be the primary authorizers of charter schools and the Kentucky Board of Education should have final say.
  • Funding for charter schools shouldn’t hurt funding provided to other public schools.
  • Charter schools need to enter into performance-based contracts with the state. The state board or local boards would be in charge of establishing evaluation criteria to measure academic performance and the organizations’ finances.
  • Charters bust be “nonprofit, nonsectarian, and cannot be wholly or partially governed by a group that is a religious denomination or affiliation.”
  • Charter school teachers should be certified by Kentucky’s Education Professional Standards Board.
  • Whoever authorizes charter schools should focus on approving the schools in at-risk or under-served populations.
  • If there are too many student applicants to a charter school, a lottery should determine enrollment. Preference could still be given to under-served students.
  • “High expectations for parental involvement should be outlined and required.”
  • The state and local school district or board shouldn’t be held legally liable for the charter school’s actions.
  • Charter schools should have access to state funding for facilities.
Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.