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Charter training waiver requests denied

Charter Training

Kentucky School Advocate
January 2020

By Brenna R. Kelly
Staff writer

Calling the state-mandated charter authorizer training requirements burdensome and a hardship on districts, eight Kentucky school boards asked the state board of education to waive the requirements. 

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), as constituted on Dec. 4, denied the boards’ requests on the recommendation of then-Commissioner Wayne Lewis. 

The districts -- Bell, Carroll, Graves, Henry, Knott, Owsley, Pulaski and Trimble counties -- cited various reasons for seeking the waivers, but most argued that 12-hours of required charter authorizer training each year is excessive.

A committee of KBE first voted to deny the waivers before the full board followed suit and unanimously voted down the districts’ requests. 

“The department has felt that we’ve already made adequate provision for assisting board members with receiving this training,” said then-KBE member Gary Houchens, “and if they would like to seek some statutory relief for that then they are certainly welcome to do that.” 

The charter authorizer training requirements are part of the administrative regulation that enacts charter school law passed by the state legislature in 2017.

After the meeting, KSBA Executive Director Kerri Schelling pointed out that the shear amount of required charter training hours limits board member training.

“At best, current charter authorizer training requirements are overly burdensome,” Schelling said. “At worst, they are severely hindering the ability for Kentucky’s elected public school boards to pursue relevant training – without expending additional time and resources – that could enhance districts’ ability to prepare every Kentucky student to succeed.” 

Before the committee vote, KDE Policy Adviser Whitney Crowe noted that board members have had from March 2018 to the end of 2019 to complete the required 12 hours and that as of October, most of the 40 board members seeking the waivers had already met the requirements.

Crowe told the committee that the department intended for board members’ yearly training to also count toward charter hours and that a “substantial portion” of KSBA’s trainings now count as charter training. 

“The intent was to maximize the duplication of those two to prevent this kind of hardship,” she said.

Kentucky Department of Education Associate Commissioner Kelly Foster said she has worked closely with KSBA to make sure that “quite a few” of KSBA’s training courses qualify for charter authorizer hours. 

“None of those have been denied,” Foster said. “We work together to tweak a few little things, but they have basically been able to offer quite a few options to school board members.” 

Schelling, in her statement, thanked KDE for working with KSBA to approve courses for dual credit. However, dual credit is not a silver bullet. 

“Because not all core board functions relate to a board’s role as charter authorizer,” she said. “The charter training requirement remains overly burdensome, both in quantity and scope.” 

In the two years that the charter law has been in place, there has been only one charter application. The General Assembly has not created a funding mechanism for charters and the former KBE, which supported charters, did not include charter funding on its legislative agenda for the 2020 session. 

In her statement, Schelling noted that board members are on track to complete 10,344 mandated charter authorizer training hours in the same period when only one charter school application has been submitted.

One of the district’s waivers asked that the training hours only be required after an application had been received. 

Houchens said that if school boards waited until an application to undergo the training, they may not be able to complete it within the 60 days – the timeline for a board to make a decision on the application. 

“That really puts both applicant and authorizer into a really difficult situation,” he said. 

Houchens noted the state board has routinely encouraged districts to seek waivers from burdensome regulations, however “this waiver system really was intended to be about instructional innovation and that type of flexibility.” 

At least three more districts have voted to seek waivers from the charter training requirements and at least four of the eight districts plan to refile their waivers. Those requests could come before the newly appointed state board of education in the coming months.

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