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Governor Signs Kentucky Charter Schools Into Law

J. Tayler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the charter schools bill into law, allowing the alternative institutions to open up this fall after an application process.

Kentucky is the 44th state in the country to allow charter schools, which will receive public funding and be exempt from most state regulations in an effort to provide innovative education.

The legislation was a major priority for Republicans in Kentucky, who had control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in state history this year.

Lawmakers spent much of the legislative session this year negotiating the policy behind closed doors, with questions over whether to allow the institutions to open up statewide and how to fund them.

Under the new law, there will be no cap on how many or where charters can be approved in the state.

Local school districts and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville will have the power to approve charter applications. Denied applications could be appealed to the Kentucky Board of Education.

Supporters of the law say charters will create competition for traditional public schools — especially under-performing ones.

Opponents worry that the law will sap students and funding from traditional public schools.

Charters will receive state funding based on student attendance, much like traditional public schools. But charters won’t receive funds for buildings or transportation. They will also have to pay a fee that would go back to local school districts and the state board of education.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell applauded the passage of the legislation last week.

“The flexibility offered by public charter schools encourages teachers and administrators to use good judgment in innovative ways to produce positive results for Kentucky children,” McConnell said. “Most importantly, public charter schools give parents additional options when selecting the school that is right for their child, particularly when they feel the needs of their child aren’t being met through the traditional public school model.”

Last week, the state Senate voted 23-15 in favor of the bill. The House voted 53-43 in a final vote to accept changes the Senate made to the bill. Bevin signed it into law on Tuesday.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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