Shelbyville lawmaker proposes three ways to shake up education

12/27/2010 10:54 AM

Imagine seeing an ad for grocery stores, soft drink makers, possibly even lawyers, placed not-so-subtly between the front and back wheels of a school bus in your town. Or getting a tax deduction for donating $1,000 for a scholarship for a child from a low-income family to switch to a higher performing school.

Along with a proposal to allow charter schools in Kentucky, those are all headline-grabbing proposals related to education proposed by the same lawmaker, Republican Rep. Brad Montell of Shelbyville.

Montell said he’s pushing those proposals to not only give students more options but, in the case of allowing ads on school buses, to help local district bring in more funding.

The most controversial of Montell’s proposals is charter schools, an issue he’s presented to the General Assembly the past two sessions.

Current House education chair, Democratic Rep. Carl Rollins of Midway, said in an interview with cn|2 Politics last week that the charter schools bill wouldn’t get a hearing in the education committee as long as Rollins was chair.

That did not come as a surprise to Montell, who said he expected the proposal to have a hard time getting past the first step in the legislative process.

Montell said charter schools, which allow private groups to form schools that are monitored by the state but don’t have to adhere to all state education guidelines, aren’t the only solution to Kentucky’s education problems.

“Charter schools aren’t a silver bullet,” Montell said. “But it’s certainly a piece of that pie to bring real reform to education. …But there is an education gap here that we need to step up and fill. I’m going to continue to push. I’m convinced one day there will be charter schools in Kentucky.”

Montell’s other two bills are relatively new ideas.

The measure that would allow advertising on school buses would prohibit advertising of alcohol and tobacco products, as well as politicians and their campaigns. It allows each individual school district to approve the length and contract of the advertising. It also requires 50 percent of the revenue to fund needs in the classroom and 25 percent to help fund transportation costs of the district.

Colorado already has tried that. And the concept could get some traction this session.

Rollins, the House education chairman, is receptive to the idea. But he said he is more likely to allow a hearing on a similar bill that is expected to be filed by a Democrat — ┬áRep. Terry Mills, of Lebanon. Rollins said he doesn’t like that Montell’s draft places restrictions on school district as to how the revenue raised can be spent.

Montell’s other education bill filed so far would provide individuals or families with up to a $1,000 deduction on their taxes for donating at least that much money to an organization aimed at helping a child from a low-income family attend a high performing school, whether it be public or private. The donation would have to cover transportation or other costs if the student changing schools went to a public school, Montell said.

“I can’t imagine folks would object to that,” he said.

While Montell isn’t on the House education committee, he has been focused on education issues for the last several sessions, either being a primary or co-sponsor on three or more education-related bills each session.

The interest in education comes from having two parents who were in the education field, Montell said.

“I’ve always been interested in education,” he said. “We spend more (state) money on education than anything else.”

- Kenny Colston

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