Education

The Kentucky Board of Education will hold a special meeting Monday morning to begin studying charter schools.

Charters have been a point of contention in the state for years. Kentucky is one of seven states currently without legislation allowing charter schools.

But that doesn’t mean lawmakers haven’t tried. Republicans have long supported legislation that would allow charter schools in Kentucky. Such efforts have died in the state House, which has for decades been controlled by Democrats.

The recent election, however, led to a shift in legislative control to Republicans, which could mean the door is open for legislation to authorize charter schools.

Such schools are similar to public schools in that they use public dollars and are funded based on student enrollment. Controversy arises because they can be operated by nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies or groups of parents and teachers.

Opponents have also criticized some charter school models over concerns the schools divert money from existing public schools.

The state’s 12-member board of education wants to get a better understanding of just how charter schools could work in Kentucky, said Becky Blessing, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education.

They’ll do that in the special meeting Monday at 9 a.m.

“The hope is that the board will learn what it needs to know before it sets its legislative agenda and make a decision on whether it supports charter schools in Kentucky,” she said.

The board scheduled the meeting after a discussion during its regular meeting in October. At that meeting, state Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner raised the need for the board to take a stance on charter schools, according to a report from The Lexington Herald-Leader.

Heiner asked the board to bring in national experts on charter schools to help guide their decision-making process, per the report.

Heiner has celebrated charters, saying they can provide alternative forms of education — like longer school days or weekend classes — for students who may not fit the traditional mold of the public school system.

“It’s working in cities all around us,” he said. “It can happen here.”

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt told The Courier-Journal in January that charter schools can “a good thing in the right situation.” He repeated that at the October meeting of the state board of education.

“I think we need to look at all of the options for school improvement,” he said then. “I’ve seen charters done well and not so well, so I don’t think that they are necessarily a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems with the achievement gap.”

The Kentucky Board of Education’s special study session on charter schools will begin at 9 a.m. Monday. A live webcast will be available on the education department’s website.

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.