Advocates for charter schools get their first say in Ky. House but no vote

02/14/2012 10:54 AM

Charter school advocates scored a small victory Tuesday by making their first arguments for allowing such alternative schools in Kentucky to an interested, if skeptical, state House panel.

The House Education Committee didn’t vote on a Republican-sponsored measure that would allow charter schools. Instead, it heard from experts, proponents and public school educators, alike, and will take additional testimony later in the session.

Republican Rep. Brad Montell, a Shelbyville Republican, sponsored House Bill 77 . He outlined the measure to a packed committee room with many spectators clapping and cheering on their side during the tense two-hour debate.

“For many years now we have tried to maintain a single school system that was to be all things to all children — at all times,” Montell said. “But this leaves us with a model that often frustrates our teachers, and despite our best efforts leaves behind far too many students.”

Montell was joined by national advocates for charter schools who took turns testifying before the committee about the how charter schools would help Kentucky students. Forty-two other states across the country already allow charter schools in some form.
And the advocates said Montell’s bill takes advantage of the failed mistakes made in other states.

They have a fair amount of convincing to do in order to get Montell’s bill to the floor of the Democratic-controlled House.

The House education committee’s chairman, Rep. Carl Rollins of Midway has established himself as a fierce defender of the public school system, including arguing against allowing charter schools.

School teachers from across Kentucky also took part in the debate in favor of better funding the existing public schools rather than allowing charter schools to siphon students — and thus funding.

“I’d like to suggest folks that we not start a new initiative that requires extensive start up funding and then shifts that funding to the individual districts,” said Butch Hamm, a Boone County School teacher. “But that we focus on the wonderful new initiatives we have going right now! The initiatives you put in place with Senate Bill 1.”

Senate Bill 1, passed in 2009, called for a revamping of the curriculum and student testing system that is being put in place this school year.

Howard Fuller, an advocate for charters schools, summed up this debate for lawmakers saying: “I understand facts are facts, but politics are politics. And at the end of the day politics is going to decide this.”

At the end of the meeting, Rollins said that he is still not in favor of charter schools after hearing the testimony, but did indicate the bill would have more discussions during this session.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.