by Don Weber –
LOUISVILLE – Individuals on both sides of the charter school discussion met at the Louisville Forum on Wednesday to discuss what’s next for the proposal in Kentucky.
Senate Bill 520, which was passed late in the 2017 regular session, opened the doors for charter schools to be established anywhere in the Commonwealth of Kentucky — provided there are enough students to support it.
Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, voiced his concerns about how the legislation allowing charter schools was rushed through the final days of the session. One of Neal’s biggest fears is the financial impact a charter school will have on local public school districts.
“I start with the premise that we should do no harm to our public schools,” Neal said. “When I look at this particular piece of legislation, you see you have an unlimited number of charter schools, and then you see it has the funding mechanism that allows for public school funds, and transportation funds, and potentially SEEKfunds to be transferred from the traditional school setting to the charter school setting.”
Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, sponsor of SB 520, said that for most students, traditional public schools are fine, but there are some who will benefit from only a charter school setting.
“The vast majority of our schools are doing great work, but that is not good enough,” Carney said. “Until every child has had the opportunities that you and I have had in this room, we can’t stop. And if it takes getting outside the box a little bit, and being uncomfortable, kids come first.”
Barbara Burke-Fondren, Director of Community Montessori, a successful charter school in New Albany, Indiana, says that there is satisfaction is knowing that her school is filling the needs of many students and families in the community, and in some cases, outside of the community.
Jefferson County Board of Education member Chris Brady expressed concerns over charters taking resources away from the public schools which could adversely affect many of the public school students.
“If we are to arrive at a point where all of our children are succeeding and reaching their full potential, then it will take all of us working together to make it so,” Brady said. “It means state government doesn’t attack public education, and adequately funds education. It means communities get involved in their schools. It means we start looking at education as an investment, and not a competition.”
The earliest that a charter school could be established in Kentucky would be the beginning of the 2018/19 school year.