Budget provision gives education commissioner new power

05/26/2010 11:21 AM

An amendment tacked onto the House budget Wednesday would give the education commissioner the new power to approve dual credit programs in which high school students can take advanced courses that would count as college credit.

Republican representatives Stan Lee, Mike Harmon and Joe Fischer

The provision was requested by Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, said Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, when explaining the amendment on the House floor Wednesday.

Moberly is a vice president at Eastern Kentucky University. He is retiring from the legislature at the end of the year.

The measure inserts the education commissioner into the dual credit program approval process that is currently handled by local school districts.

“This would give us some supervision over those programs,” said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the department. “It would help districts to be innovative.”

Gross also said the provision serves another purpose: it would establish early and middle college programs that, in some ways, could be considered charter-school lite.

“We might be able to make the argument that this is is charter-like,” Gross said.

Moberly proposed a bill that would allow Kentucky to establish charter schools under certain situations. But the bill isn’t being taken up by the legislature during this special session.

On a related note, Rep. Brad Montell, a Shelbyville Republican and proponent of charter schools, lamented the fact that charter school legislation hasn’t passed through the General Assembly while speaking on the budget bill Wednesday morning.

“We will not go away until our communities are given a choice in public education,” Montell said.

Charter schools are formed for specific purposes — under charters — and can use private and public funds but would be free of certain state requirements public schools must meet.

Allowing charter schools is one of the items the U.S. Department of Education wants to see from states as the agency decides how to dole out hundreds of millions of Race to the Top grant funding. But it is “hard to tell” whether this amendment would satisfy that requirement, Gross said.

- Ryan Alessi

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