Public charter schools bill heading to Senate floor after passing education committee

03/15/2017 01:36 PM

FRANKFORT — The Senate Education Committee has approved amended legislation that would authorize public charter schools throughout Kentucky, setting up a likely floor vote later Wednesday.

House Bill 520 cleared the education panel on a 9-3 party-line vote with a few changes.

Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, said the upper chamber cleaned up language in a number of areas, such as requirements that charter schools hire certified teachers, lotteries conducted by charter schools and participation in athletics.

Supporters and opponents shared familiar testimony, with those in favor of HB 520 saying public charter schools would help disadvantaged children catch up to their peers while detractors said the bill would endanger funding for traditional public schools and had been hurried through the legislative process.

For Gov. Matt Bevin, now’s the time to advance charter schools legislation and make Kentucky the 44th state to allow such schools.

“This has passed every time it’s come before this body,” the governor said. “It’s hard for me to imagine that it’s even needing a debate at this point.”

“What is at stake is the future of young men who are 11 years old today that in six, seven years are going to be heading out into the adult world, on to postsecondary school or the working world or who knows where, and the choices for many of these kids are not great,” he added.

LaTanya Wilson, of Toledo, Ohio, testified in favor of House Bill 520 because of the opportunities that charter schools gave her 11-year-old son, who had grown bored at school.

Options are important “because the traditional model doesn’t work for every child,” she said.

But not everyone was on board with the public charter schools proposal.

Lucy Waterbury with the group Save Our Schools Kentucky said school districts would be hampered financially if money flows with students enrolled in charter schools from public schools.

Her son’s school in Fayette County recently lost a STEM teacher as the district grappled with funding reductions, she said.

“Those children deserve our best efforts,” Waterbury said, referencing at-risk youth. “Those children deserve bipartisan discussion. Those children deserve transparency. Their parents deserve to know what are in bills that are brought before you, with time to read them and analyze them.”

She and others who testified against the bill urged lawmakers to expand the districts of innovation concept and lift regulations on public schools. Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, added that the legislature should pump more cash into the state’s public schools.

HB 520 is expected to get a vote in the Senate later Wednesday, the last day before lawmakers are scheduled to break for the veto recess.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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