Politics

The Kentucky Board of Education has drafted a set of proposed regulations to govern charter schools, after revisions proposed by a new advisory board appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Organizations that want to become charter schools will likely be able to submit applications starting in February 2018, with doors expected to open up in the fall of 2018.

The suggested rules deal with the application process for organizations that want to become charter schools, how students apply and how the schools are evaluated and contracted.

Members of the Charter School Advisory Council, a board created by Bevin to make recommendations to the Board of Education, successfully pushed for streamlining the application and contracting process for charters.

“It doesn’t make sense to stretch the application for no good reason,” said Wayne Lewis, a University of Kentucky education professor who also works in the Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development.

“We looked for places to eliminate redundancy and we also looked for places to eliminate where the application was asking for things that we judged to not really be appropriate for consideration.”

The state legislature passed charter school legislation earlier this year, with expectations that the schools could open up this year.

Under the new law, local school districts and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville will be in charge of reviewing charter applications and holding the organizations accountable.

But drafting the official regulations that govern the schools has taken longer than expected.

Charter school advocates objected to the most recent draft of regulations, saying the proposed application and contract processes would hamper the schools from getting started and growing.

Joel Adams, executive director of the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Association, wrote a letter saying the board of education had given authorizers too much power to over charters.

“Two of the documents before you, the charter school application and the charter school contract, existentially threaten the birth of charter schooling in Kentucky,” Adams wrote.

“A contract that grants broad approval and intervention powers to authorizers undermines charter autonomy and creates opportunities for antagonistic authorizers to administratively abuse charter schools while avoiding accountability for the damage.”

Advocates’ concerns with the contract and application were echoed by the Charter School Advisory Council.

The Board of Education voted in favor of many of the changes, though a few members pushed back.

Board member Bill Twyman said that charter organizations should be able to fill out extra information.

“And if you can’t fill out an application, then that tells me something,” Twyman said. “Because I guarantee you, teaching kids is a lot harder.”

The proposed regulations will have a public comment period starting Nov. 1 and a public hearing on Nov 21.

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