Chartering a course
Charter school authorization at forefront as 2017 legislative session opens
Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn Coldiron
The November general election, with its Republican juggernaut, produced a GOP supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature – a situation that has moved one public education issue out of perennial status and into the realm of near-certainty in the 2017 General Assembly.
The state’s education commissioner says he believes charter schools are in Kentucky’s immediate future; some lawmakers are predicting a charter school bill will sail through under GOP control; the governor has always backed the concept; and the state school board has added its voice, though tempered.
In fact, said KSBA Governmental Relations Director Eric Kennedy, though other education issues remain to be raised, the discussion has focused on charter schools to the extent “that it is sucking up all the air out of the room.
“We here are a little bit concerned that charters will take up all the attention, even though there are other very important education issues that we have been advocating for years, that we think have a good chance of passing and we are going to really advocate for passing this year, such as tribunal reforms, principal and superintendent selection, and the appropriate role and powers of school-based decision making councils relative to school boards.”
The fact that this is an odd-year, short session puts a damper on prospects for action on complex issues like tax reform, which the governor and others have indicated will wait for a special session in 2017. In addition, new House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown), has said he wants to “start off slow,” tackling just three to five bills in a House that will be welcoming 23 members new to the legislative process.
Overall, public education advocates and interest groups will be getting used to “the new reality of Frankfort,” Kennedy said.
The much-improved prospect for charter schools is part of that reality.