The regular legislative session of the Kentucky General Assembly has ended, and a few things should be noted. First and arguably most important, we do not have a budget. Also noteworthy, however, is that legislators were unable to get a bill through which contained a provision creating charters schools in the commonwealth. kentucky is one of only 11 states that have not passed charter school legislation, but during this legislative session lawmakers came ever so close to making the charter school idea a reality in Kentucky. The last minute push for the somewhat controversial (at least in Kentucky) education reform came as a result of Kentucky failing to win federal funding in the Race to the Top competition. Kentucky did successfully make it to the finals of the first round, but in the end, not having charter school legislation proved to be too costly for the state’s application to win funding.
If the bill had passed successfully, Kentucky’s charter law would have been a conservative one. The bill granted local school boards sole authority to approve charter school applications. The schools would have existed as entities within local school districts, and would have been held accountable to local boards. Kentucky charter schools would have only been able to hire state certified teachers and administrators, and charter schools would have been bound by any local bargaining agreement between teachers unions local school boards. Clearly, the bill was crafted conservatively with the intent of making the reform palatable for traditional public school proponents/charter school opponents. With hopes of winning funding in the second round of the Race to the Top competition, the charter school provision had won the support of the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), and many local school district officials around the state.
All may not be lost for charter school enthusiasts in Kentucky. Because the state has not passed a budget, the legislature will be heading for a special session, where the charter school discussion could very likely pick up again. The enticement of federal funding in Race to the Top may be just enough to move Kentucky into “Charter Land.” To be honest, with the way the provision is presently written, I have a hard time seeing why traditionalists would oppose it. If anything, charter school proponents should oppose its restrictiveness. The proposed law is so restrictive that the likelihood of charter schools really taking off under it are slim to none. I say let’s get this done Kentucky and fight for funding in round 2. I’ll keep you posted here as this unfolds.