Funding mechanism for charter schools is needed, Lewis tells council

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Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis told members of the Kentucky Charter School Advisory Council that until the Kentucky General Assembly provides a funding mechanism for charter schools, there is no way that charter applications can be processed by local boards of education. Lewis spoke to the council at its meeting Nov. 9 in Frankfort.

Ben Cundiff, a member of the council and the Kentucky Board of Education, asked Lewis if the legislation needed is an appropriation.

“We are not requesting an appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly,” said Lewis. “We need a mechanism that permits funds to move to a public charter school of choice with a child if the child’s parents elect to send them to a charter school. If the General Assembly passes this mechanism, if parents do not choose to enroll their children in charter schools, no state dollars will flow to those schools.”

Although the 2019 session of the General Assembly is not a budget session, Lewis said he believes a statute on the funding mechanism could and should be considered by the legislature. If the funding mechanism were to pass in 2019, it still would likely be another one to two years before a charter school would open its doors.

He reminded the group, which includes three Kentucky Board of Education members, that charter schools will just be one of many tools for educators to use to better serve the needs of low-income and minority students who are falling behind in reading and mathematics.

“If we continue on the trajectory we are on, achievement gaps in Kentucky will grow, not decline,” said Lewis. “Public charter schools are one of many tools we need to help move academic achievement.”

The Charter Schools Advisory Council is charged with making recommendations to the Kentucky Board of Education for the adoption of regulations regarding all aspects of charter school operation, including timelines, standards, criteria for acceptance and approval of applications, monitoring of charter schools, appeals to the Kentucky Board of Education and grounds for revocation of charters. 

During the meeting, the group reviewed and gave feedback on charter school regulations pursuant to HB 50 (2017). Up for review were:

  • 701 KAR 8:010, Charter school student application, lottery and enrollment
  • 701 KAR 8:020, Evaluation of charter school authorizers
  • 701 KAR 8:030, Charter school appeal process
  • 701 KAR 8:040, Conversion charter school petition, conversion and operation

“Kentucky will have the most rigorous system of charter school accountability in the country, which means we will likely have fewer charters than other states, but it will ensure that we have higher quality schools,” said Gary Houchens, a member of the council and KBE.

The next meeting of the Charter School Advisory Council is 9 a.m. Jan. 23 at the Kentucky Department of Education headquarters in Frankfort.

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