Legislation creating pilot charter schools in Fayette and Jefferson Counties passes Senate committee

02/05/2015 02:51 PM

FRANKFORT — A bill which would establish limited charter schools on a pilot program basis in Fayette and Jefferson counties passed the Senate Committee on Education Thursday.

Senate Bill 8 , sponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, passed by an 8-2 vote.

The bill specifies a pilot program for up to five charter schools in five years, with no more than two schools starting per year. The target students will be primarily students who are on free and reduced lunch, live within five miles of a particular school and are enrolled in a focus or failing school.

The schools would have more freedom because there would be no site based decision making council and no collective bargaining, but all teachers would have to be certified.

The schools would be tuition free and would be authorized and overseen by the local school board as well as the Public Charter School Commission which would be authorized by the governor.

Wayne Lewis, representing the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Association says the time is right for charter schools in the state.

“The bill targets kids who are in most need of alternative educational options in our state,” Lewis said. “It’s no secret that we have an astronomical achievement gap.”

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, who was one of two committee members who voted against the bill, had concerns that the bill doesn’t address the major problem of how to help current struggling public schools in his state, including William Wells Brown Elementary in Lexington, which is in his district.

Thomas asked Wilson if he believed that the legislation would help the current struggling public schools.

“Do you believe that this legislation will get to the problems that’s really facing William Wells Brown — which really has nothing to do with a new program, but has issues to do with things like: getting parental involvement in the schools, looking at the nutrition that those students are eating, getting community resources?” Thomas asked.

“If I didn’t feel like it didn’t address those issues, I wouldn’t bring the bill,” Wilson said.


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