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KENTUCKY Republicans seizing on charter school issue

Kentucky CapitolRepublicans in Kentucky are pressing the state to allow charter schools, saying state policy on the issue could determine whether the next generation succeeds.

Any future Kentucky governor who ignores education, and the benefits that many think charter schools would bring, would be holding the state back, said former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner, who is considering a run for governor in 2015.

“We just can’t continue to languish in the bottom third of the country across the state and leaving countless children behind because we’re not willing to offer educational options to children that are not well served by the current system,” he said.

Heiner’s comments came after a roundtable discussion in Louisville sponsored by his new Kentucky Charter Schools Association, which favors legislation that would allow for publicly-funded charter schools to replace failing public schools in the state.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who sponsored legislation earlier this year to encourage the use of charter schools, attended the discussion and said their need in Kentucky represents a genuine crisis.”

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who has advocated for charter schools for years, said after the panel discussion that charter schools are “a huge issue” politically. “It really shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he said. “I think there are some within the educational establishment that feel threatened by it.”

Charter Schools aren’t run by local school boards and often free to use innovative teaching models that aren’t used under state and federal education laws and regulations. Opponents, however, argue that such schools take money from public school systems, making it more difficult to educate a broader group of students and that educational outcomes, on average, are no better or worse than those in traditional public schools.

“When you look at the progress Kentucky’s made under (the Kentucky Education Reform Act), and even more recently, we’ve outpaced surrounding states that have charter schools, so it would be a step backwards to go to what they have,” said Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association.

Forty two states allow for some sort of charter schools and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has endorsed the use of them. Kentucky is one of only 8 states where charter schools are not allowed.

Efforts to pass charter school legislation has failed on party lines in the Kentucky General Assembly in recent years and Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, said Thursday he plans to file a bill in the 2014 session to allow them.

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the issue isn’t a Republican or Democratic one and expressed hope that the bill would eventually pass. “This is a citizen issue, it is about our children,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting, billed as an education summit, included national supporters of charter schools, parents who are concerned about some aspect of Jefferson County Schools and others who believe that charter schools should be allowed.

No one on the panel opposed charter schools but some opponents, including Democratic state legislators and Jefferson County School Superintendent Donna Hargens were invited. Hargens said she just wanted to listen to the discussion.

McKim said he’s not concerned that an unrelenting effort to allow charter schools in Kentucky will succeed. “I don’t really get a sense that this bill is picking up that sort of momentum. I think it would be a huge setback to the commonwealth, if that happened.”

Source: Courier-Journal – by Joseph Gerth

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This entry was posted on August 23, 2013 by in Advocacy, Charter Schools, Kentucky and tagged , .

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