Rep. Moberly files charter school bill, Beshear says agreement is needed

05/24/2010 03:28 PM

(UPDATED 4:57 p.m.) FRANKFORT —Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, made a surprise move by filing a bill that would pave the way for some charter schools in Kentucky — an issue that can be considered only if Gov. Steve Beshear adds it to his call for this week’s special legislative session.

Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond

Moberly told reporters that the charter school legislation was a crucial piece to Kentucky getting as much as $180 million in federal funding through U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grants. That money would help implement new curriculum standards and testing approved in 2009 through Senate Bill 1, he said.

“I think it would be ridiculous if we don’t look at it,” Moberly said.

His House Bill 7, which he said he didn’t have a chance to talk with Beshear or Democratic House leaders about before introducing on Monday, would allow local school districts — and the commissioner of education — the chance to approve the charter schools. He said his proposal would allow for four different types of charter schools:

  • Converted public schools, in which 75 percent of the faculty and parents vote to become a charter school, which receives public money and private contributions but are regulated by rules established in their charters and not by all the standard public school guidelines.
  • A statewide virtual charter school.
  • Career academies aimed at specific vocations.
  • And charter schools established in collaboration with colleges or universities.

Moberly, who is retiring from the legislature this year, is a vice president at Eastern Kentucky University.

But it appeared unlikely Monday that Moberly’s bill would get traction if lawmakers aim to be done by with the state budget bill and other legislation by Friday.

The legislature only can tackle issues in a special session that the governor includes on his formal call that orders lawmakers back to Frankfort. But Beshear said he wouldn’t amend the current session call unless the House and the Senate agreed on any particular measure.

“If the House and the Senate come together and agree today on a measure for charter schools I’ll amend,” Beshear said. “But I don’t think that agreement is there and we want to keep this session short.”

Beshear also urged legislators to stick to a strict five-day deadline to achieve their main goals: passing bills approving a $17.1 billion two-year budget, an accompanying revenue bill, a road construction plan, a bill allowing Bourbon tasting at this fall’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and one dealing with the state’s overheated unemployment insurance trust fund.

“There is no reason they can’t get budget bills introduced,” Beshear said. “That and the two other measures can be on my desk by Friday and I hope that happens.”

Beshear called any impasse devastating to many areas of the Commonwealth, including economic recovery and development. Additionally,

Additionally, Beshear said disagreed with any shortening of the current school year in order to cut money from the budget.

“Kids need to go to school 177 days, if not more, in order to compete in the 21st century,” he said.

He also disagreed with the House proposal to eliminate any funding for Category 5 schools, which he called some of the worse physically in the state. Beshear’s key though, was just getting budget measures passed.

“The main thing we want is a budget on Friday,” Beshear said. “I fully expect changes (in his proposed budget) will be made, but I made the proposal so they could get off square one and pass a budget.”

—Kenny Colston and Ryan Alessi

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