The following is a statement by the Prichard Committee on HB520
We are grateful to House Education Chair, John “Bam” Carney, for working with groups on all sides of the issue to arrive at a piece of legislation that benefits from charter successes and challenges in other states – and takes Kentucky’s unique trajectory of education reform into consideration.
The Committee is pleased that HB520 lays out specific goals for the addition of charter schools as part of Kentucky’s system of public education – goals that seek to elevate student success and begin to close persistent achievement gaps.
We are also pleased that HB520 positions locally elected boards of education as the primary authorizer of public charter schools. This model provides the best possible system to ensure local collaboration that values the needs of each student. Local authorizing will provide a setting for positive partnerships between traditional public schools and public charter schools – partnerships that inspire community support and best serve all children within the context of each district’s goals for student achievement.
However, the bill in its final form today raises some new questions that we hope to hear discussed as the bill moves to the Senate. Definition about how charter schools will be funded has been removed from the bill and clarity on this issue will be necessary for charter implementation and to ensure the proper resourcing of all public schools. The bill also establishes “regional achievement zones” of which more information to better understand their objective will be beneficial.
One lingering question is: what requirements will be in place for charters to provide free and reduced price meals to students? With the expressed goal of the legislation to close persistent achievement gaps, and knowing many of these students are from low-income families, ensuring their nutritional needs are met should be a top priority.
In the final analysis, we hope all members of the General Assembly will work now and in the years ahead to ensure that public charter schools in Kentucky meet their mission: to lift the achievement of students and especially students who have been traditionally underserved. Such legislation, and the resulting regulations, should provide the appropriate supports and resources to establish only high-quality charters and to close charters not fulfilling their promise of better outcomes for our students.
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group. Comprised of volunteer civic and business leaders from across Kentucky, the Committee has worked to improve education for Kentuckians of all ages since 1983.