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Charter school bill heads to Senate; local school districts have authority under HB 9

By CHAD MCCOY
50th District State RepresentativeMonday, March 28, 2022 — It is no secret that education is a priority of mine. It can unlock any door and level any playing field and is the common solution to so many of the challenges facing our state. After all, study after study shows a strong relationship between education, health, financial health, and overall happiness. My support moved me to vote for the House version of the state budget, which provides a number of resources to help Kentucky students reach their full potential.

REP. CHAD MCCOY

Monday, March 28, 2022 — My support for education is also why I sponsored HB 9, legislation that would amend Kentucky’s public charter school laws to create a pilot program, clarify that SEEK funds follow a student, and require the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to organizations interested in opening a public charter school. There has been a good bit of controversy and misinformation surrounding this measure, so I thought I might share some details and talk about what the bill actually does. The bill passed the House last week and is on its way to Senate Committee.

HB 9 builds on public charter school legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in 2017 (HB 520). It is based on the simple premise that while traditional public schools are the foundation of our state’s approach to education, they are unable to meet the needs of all children. Public charter schools can fill the gaps and play a critical role in improving student achievement.

Public charter schools are free public schools authorized by local school boards (or the mayors of Lexington and Louisville) that provide an alternate learning environment. They often have more freedom to innovate and can provide a focus on specific subjects or offer alternative schedules.

Creates a Pilot Program: The committee substitute to HB 9 mandates the creation of a public charter school to act as a pilot project in Jefferson County and Northern Kentucky. These pilot programs give the state a chance to test the public charter concept.

Ensures Local School Board’s Play a Role: An application to establish a charter school in a school district with less than 7,500 students must include a memorandum of understanding from the local school board before it can be considered. This means that a local school board has to approve of the public charter model before it moves forward in the application process.

Funding Follows the Child: The measure clarifies that state per pupil funding through the SEEK funding formula follows the child. However, the measure includes a provision that specifically prohibits sharing any funding raised through a nickel tax levied to raise money to pay for new school construction bonds.

Requires Technical Assistance in Application Process: Only local school boards and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville can approve an application to open a charter school. The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) is responsible for considering appeals. If an appeal is denied, HB 9 requires the KBE to explain why an appeal is denied. The bill additionally requires the Kentucky Department of Education to provide technical assistance to applicants who request it.

Currently, 45 states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws and more than three million American children are enrolled in a charter school. The House Committee Substitute to HB 9 is the result of months of work with stakeholders and takes into consideration input brought forward once the original bill was filed in early March.

I’m a product of public schools and I support the public schools in our community. However, we can’t ignore the fact that there are Kentucky children who have needs that the traditional public school model can’t meet – particularly in urban areas with large districts. Our education policies have to do a better job of offering opportunities for those children, and I feel like we have an opportunity with the pilot program created by HB 9.

I was proud to cast a vote earlier this session for a budget that provided record per pupil funding, additional FRYSC monies, transportation funding, and money for full-day kindergarten. I did so knowing that the money we allocated from the state level should be plenty for local districts to provide raises to their employees – including classroom teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, guidance counselors, and aides. Just like I feel HB 9 provides local control on the issue of public charter schools in our counties, I think local districts should have the ability to provide raises.

As always, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181.

You can also contact me via e-mail at Chad.McCoy@lrc.ky.gov. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature’s Home Page at www.legislature.ky.gov.

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