Washington D.C. - After the 2016 election, there was hope that a long-awaited change would come for Kentucky’s public school students. However, in a shocking failure of leadership, Kentucky became the first state in the nation to enact a public charter school law one year and immediately stall it the next. By failing to enact a permanent charter school funding mechanism that would not cost the state any additional money, Kentucky’s Legislature turned its back to parents demanding school choice and their children who would’ve benefited by going to a school that is best suited for them.
In an unprecedented turn of events, several charter school supporters from the previous session did little to nothing to ensure that Kentucky would actually reap the benefit of the 2017 charter school authorization legislation. While we appreciate the Senate for attempting to provide a funding mechanism by including language in the Senate version of a revenue bill, we are shocked and appalled that the House thumbed their nose at parents, students, and supporters of public charter schools. Even more appalling is that while the House secured the highest level of per-pupil funding in Kentucky history, it could not provide innovative options for students and parents when a funding mechanism for charter schools would not have cost a single penny.
“We know there is demand from Kentucky families for more public school options. We also know that several groups of educators and community members are working hard on applications to launch high-quality public charter schools in Kentucky,” said Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president of state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “We urge the legislature to stand with these families, educators, and community members by enacting a funding mechanism for public charter school students.”
For example, a former Kentucky elementary school principal is working to develop a language immersion school in West Louisville, having demonstrated his leadership with a near-elimination of below-proficient readers as principal at his last post. In another example, the River Cities Academy (RCA) team has been toiling for well over a year to develop its teacher-centric, project-based learning school to be established in Newport. Serving Newport and surrounding districts, some of which are among the low-performing districts in the Commonwealth, RCA is well on its way to providing a public school option to a diverse body of urban students in Kentucky's only Regional Achievement Zone. Without a funding mechanism, neither of these schools will open.
Kentucky’s public-school students who have been stuck in persistently-failing schools for far too long are the real losers in the Kentucky Legislature’s politics-as-usual inaction on charter schools. Instead of enacting a permanent charter school funding mechanism to allow new, high-quality options for the state’s most vulnerable students, and at no additional cost to the state, Kentucky’s leaders failed to deliver on their promise of school choice and told these students to wait while their legislative supporters bowed to political expediency.
In 2016, Kentuckians overwhelmingly voted for officials that support school choice. Those Legislators should follow through on their commitment and provide a funding mechanism for charter schools before they end their work for the year.
About Public Charter Schools
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.
About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.