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Kentucky Lawmakers Approve Charter School Law

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By Denisa Superville

After years of failed attempts, Kentucky lawmakers have approved a charter school law. The measure passed the state Senate on a vote of 23-15 Wednesday afternoon, largely along party lines.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin—an enthusiastic supporter of charters—is expected to sign the measure. The Kentucky House approved the bill—HB 520—last week and will still have to sign off on changes made by the Senate.

Supporters of the bill presented the charter legislation as an expansion of schooling options for families, particularly those whose children are in low-performing schools. Kentucky is one of the last states to allow charters, and supporters say they can learn from the successes of high-performing charters in other states and avoid mistakes made in others.

Opponents of the bill—including the state school boards association and teachers' unions—argued it would siphon money from traditional public schools.  

Kentucky has been one of the hardest places to pass a charter law, but with the 2016 election, Republicans in the state took control of the legislature and the governorship, clearing the way for a charter bill to succeed.

The bill says nothing about how charters in Kentucky will be funded. Under its provisions, there will be no limit on the number of charter schools that can be authorized. The measure empowers local school boards to be the authorizers of charters. Mayors can become authorizers under the bill.

And while the bill says that parents, community members, public organizations, school administrators, and nonprofits can apply to operate a charter school, there is nothing in the legislation that prevents charter school operators from contracting out all of their management and operations to a for-profit entity. Opponents of the measure said allowing for-profit involvement in charter operations is a major concern for them.

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