...central Kentucky senator defends vote on passing charter school bill, acknowledges some constituents disappointed; Campbellsville Ind., Taylor Co. officials still have questions

Central Kentucky News-Journal, Campbellsville, March 20, 2017

Carney’s charter school bill passes
Governor expected to sign bill into law after it passes House, Senate

A bill that will allow for the creation of charter schools in the state of Kentucky has received final approval in the state legislature and has been sent to the governor’s office to be signed into law. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has been outspoken about his support of the bill and is expected to sign the bill into law within the next 10 days. As of press time Friday, Bevin had not yet signed the bill.

House Bill 520, sponsored by House Education Chair John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, would allow for the creation of charter schools across the state, beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year.
For public charter schools, an authorizer — under HB 520, this would be a local school board or the mayors of Lexington and Louisville — would enter into a performance-based contract (or charter) with an oversight board or entity that would detail various aspects of the school, including its governance, funding, accountability, and flexibility.

As it stands, Kentucky is currently one of seven states that do not allow charter schools. Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia are the other six that do not have charter school laws.

The bill first passed through the House of Representatives on March 3 by a vote of 56-39. It was received in the Senate on March 6, according to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, and after passing from the Senate Education Committee, the bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 23-15. After heading back to the House for final approval before heading to the governor’s office,
the House voted 53-43 in favor of HB 520 at approximately 9:30 p.m. last Wednesday night.

Both Carney and State Sen. Max Wise voted in support of the bill.

The bill has drawn its share of supporters and detractors. Proponents of the bill argue that public charter schools will offer students and parents more choice and improve overall education in the state. Opponents say the bill was rushed through the legislature, and others say it will take money from existing school districts that say they are already underfunded.

Those are concerns that have been raised locally by the superintendent and board members of the Campbellsville Independent School District. The bill has been brought up at board meetings and was once again discussed at the March board meeting held last Monday.

Campbellsville Independent Schools Superintendent Mike Deaton has repeatedly said he believes the bill needs to be thoroughly investigated to clarify many of the concerns and questions that parents, teachers, and school administrators have, even if that means waiting a year before passing it. Deaton has also said he believes charter schools will be given funding that would normally go
to school districts he says are already underfunded.

In an email Friday morning, Deaton said that due to some amendments and changes to the bill, he could not provide a full statement, but said public schools will be affected.

“There are going to be significant consequences for our public schools,” he said. “Everything from academics to athletics will be affected.”

Campbellsville Independent Schools Board Chair Pat Hall has also been outspoken on the matter, saying she believes legislators rushed into passing the bill.

When the bill was first introduced, Taylor County School District Superintendent Roger Cook said he — like most other superintendents across the state — opposes the bill, but believes the Taylor County School District would be greatly affected.

State Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville , recently released a statement regarding his vote on the bill. He said that while he knows some of his constituents are disappointed in his decision, he carefully weighed the options before deciding how he would vote.

Wise said he believes education is a parent’s choice, whether it be public schools, private schools, Christian schools, and home schools. He also said he has always supported public schools, noting
that he was a public school graduate and a parent of children currently in the public school system.

Wise said he has great respect for educators and values the traditional public schools, especially noting that the traditional public schools in the 16th Senate District have been performing well.

However, Wise says he “cannot turn a blind eye” to other underperforming school districts.

“I have great respect for all educators and value our traditional public schools,” Wise said. “I am especially proud of our own public schools in my Senate District. As your Kentucky State Senator, I take very seriously the responsibility and trust the people have placed with me. While our area public schools are not failing by any means, as a commonwealth we do have many low and under performing public schools, especially in the urban cities. Even though I represent seven south central Kentucky counties, I cannot have a blind eye when it comes to our overall statewide public education. When we fail in the education of one student, we fail in providing them the building blocks for their future and our state’s future. This failure has detrimental social and economic ramifications for families, communities, and the commonwealth.” Wise also emphasized one aspect of charter school funding.

“Charter schools would be funded with public dollars on a per-pupil basis, much like traditional public schools are funded,” he said. “Specified funding would ‘follow’ students as a transfer from a traditional public school to a public charter school. Public education dollars would continue to be disbursed to school districts based on the number of students they serve. Neither school districts nor public charter schools have a right to public education funding. Funds are allocated for students’ education, and those funds should follow students to whatever public school they attend.”

He also emphasized that the only authorizers for charter schools are local school boards and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville.

Wise, as well as Carney, have both said they do not expect to see charter schools arise in rural school districts.

In all, Wise said HB 520 will not be a silver bullet to fix failing schools in the state, and there is no way to predict outcomes for any legislation when it is first passed, but he hopes that it will be a success and that school districts are performing better than before.

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