Heiner Returns as Education Advocate

by Phillip M. Bailey on January 3, 2012

Returning to public life, former Louisville mayoral candidate Hal Heiner is encouraging state lawmakers to adopt legislation that would create public charter schools in Kentucky.

The East End Republican served on the Metro Council for two terms before making a bid for mayor and losing narrowly to Greg Fischer. Heiner is now chairman of Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education (KARE), which launched a statewide ad campaign Tuesday advocating for charter schools that would be tuition-free and open to all students.

During the 2010 mayoral race, Heiner was critical of Jefferson County Public Schools, particularly the student-assignment plan.

Heiner says his new work is based in large part on education reform that came up during the mayoral race.

“I saw the tremendous needs in Louisville and in Kentucky for a different type of education, especially for at-risk youth. Here in Louisville we have over 200 kids every month school is in session drop out and never return to school. We’re only graduating close to 70 percent of the students that are in JCPS,” he says. “And what I’m finding is that the best cities what they have turned to is public charter schools.”

Critics have said students in charter schools do not perform better than those who operate within the traditional public school system.

Since losing to Fischer, speculation about Heiner’s future have pointed to possible runs for the state legislature, Congress or governor.

But Heiner says being the chairman of KARE is his main focus and he’s not laying the groundwork for any bid for public office.

“Education was leftover on my heart from this mayoral campaign and sometimes when you’re touched with things in life you just can’t walk away. And as I studied other cities and visited some amazing schools and what they’re doing, especially in the heart of the city, intense urban areas with poor kids, the results are amazing. And I thought, we need to bring that to Louisville and to Kentucky,” he says.

Heiner will lobby lawmakers personally and plans to testify before any committee where the legislation is brought. But as WFPL’s Kenny Colston reported earlier, a bill filed by state Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, creating charter schools faces an uphill battle because previous measures have died in the Democratic-controlled House.

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