Elizabethtown Ind. board opposes charter school creation, sends resolution to legislators, Gov. Bevin; member: "charter schools will continue to defund what is already underfunded"

News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Dec. 21, 2016

Elizabethtown Independent Schools board opposes charter schools
Resolutions says it will take money from already-underfunded public system
By Anna Taylor

Ahead of the 2017 legislative session, the Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education passed a resolution Monday night in opposition to charter schools in Kentucky.

The resolution will be sent to Gov. Matt Bevin, state senators and representatives, the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education.

“I think it’s important that local school districts let the public know where we stand as a board of education before the session starts,” Chairman Matt Wyatt said.

A bill was prefiled Dec. 9 relating to charter schools. The bill, BR51, suggests the general assembly establish a charter school pilot project starting with the 2018-19 school year. The project would be tested in Jefferson and Fayette counties.

The purposes of the charter school initiative, according to the bill, is to improve student learning by creating more high-performing schools with high standards for student performance; encourage the use of different, high-quality models of teaching; close achievement gaps; allow schools freedom and flexibility in exchange for exceptional levels of results-driven accountability; increase high-quality educational opportunities for all students; and to provide students, parents, community members and local entities with expanded opportunities for involvement in the public education system.

In the resolution, the board expressed concerns about charter schools siphoning money from public schools, lacking similar transparency and accountability standards as public schools, and failing to help at-risk students.

“The Elizabethtown Independent Board of Education opposes any Charter School legislation that will establish a separate system of state-authorized public charter schools that are funded through a funding formula that unilaterally takes critically needed funds from the local school districts and redirects them to charter schools, thereby debilitating the significantly underfunded existing system of funding for public education for all Kentucky students,” the resolution states.

The board held a discussion on charter schools before unanimously passing the resolution.

“We know with very good confidence that charter schools will continue to defund what is already underfunded,” said Tony Kuklinski, a board member. “They will take taxpayer money, money from the people we represent, and put it into a private enterprise for personal gain with no substantial data to support a better education system than a public school system.”

Kuklinski added that once the charter schools fail or decide to close shop, children will return to public schools undereducated.

“We already have things in place where if we don’t meet certain requirements and standards that the state has implemented, there can be sanctions up to and including the state coming in and taking over a school district,” he said.

Kentucky is one of seven states that does not have charter school legislation. Other states without charter schools are Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.

Wyatt said charter schools are an ideology that says schools are a free market.

“It says that, in order for schools to be better, we have to compete for our students and that there is some sort of incentive that’s out there,” he said. “It’s Economics 101.”

Wyatt suggested anyone who has issues with the current public school system to become involved locally.

Hardin County Schools Board of Education Chairman Charlie Wise, who also opposes charter schools, said the district will discuss and consider writing a similar resolution next month once new board members have been sworn in.

Dawn Logsdon Johnson will fill the Division 5 seat and succeed Suzy Broadwater. The Division 1 board seat has yet to be appointed by the state education commissioner. That board member will succeed John Emary.

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