(The Center Square) – A bill that would provide funding for charter schools in Kentucky passed the state Senate on Tuesday.
Kentucky law established charter schools five years ago, but that occurred without any funding mechanism. House Bill 9, which passed by a 22-14 vote, would rectify that.
The bill also calls for pilot charter school projects in Louisville and northern Kentucky. The latter pilot led KY 120 United-AFT to file an ethics complaint against state Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort Mitchell, earlier this week.
The group, which advocates for public school teachers, claims Banta received a political favor with the inclusion of an “urban academy” in northern Kentucky as part of the bill.
Banta denied the allegation.
Besides the pilot schools in two of Kentucky’s most populated areas, the bill also revises the appeals process for charter school applications rejected by the state Department of Education.
The department still can turn down a charter school applicant. Under the bill, if that happens, the applicant can request the department to help it improve its application.
However, the legislation does include a provision for smaller school districts – defined as ones with fewer than 7,500 students – to block a charter school applicant from appealing.
Charter schools are publicly funded schools operated by private organizations. Their supporters say they help foster innovation and provide families with needed alternatives for their children’s education.
Critics counter that funding charter schools will weaken the state’s public school systems by siphoning money away from them.
“They’ve made no secret about it. They’ve said they wanted it. And who are these people? Well, it’s rich donors and billionaires and foundations,” state Sen. Robin Webb said. “What’s the goal here? Well, to get some of the money and also set curriculum, bring people in to teach so they can set the agenda that goes with their agenda.”
However, Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, sought to quell those concerns.
“It’s a tool in the toolbox of education. It’s not looking to take over all of education. It’s just looking to be a tool to be used where needed,” Wilson said.
The bill now is in the hands of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who will likely veto the legislation. If that happens, lawmakers will have a chance to override that when they return on April 13 to begin the final two days of the session.
Republican leaders will need simple majorities in the 100-member House and the 38-member Senate to enact the bill.