JCPS Supports “Districts of Innovation” Bill

by Devin Katayama on April 9, 2012

A bill allowing Kentucky schools to be more innovative in the way kids learn has gained support from charter school opponents and supporters.

The bill, if signed by Gov. Steve Beshear, would allow for so-called districts of innovation. It wouldn’t go as far as allowing parents or organizations to form charter schools, but it would allow districts to be exempt from certain state regulations while keeping them under the control of local school boards.

That’s partly why it has the support of Jefferson County Teachers Association president Brent McKim. The districts of innovation plan eliminates the need for charters, he said.

“But it does it in a way that still ensures that you have the oversight that comes with the public school. You have the same certification requirements for teachers that you have in public schools unlike charters where you could employ a teacher that may not even qualify as a substitute teacher in a public school,” said McKim.

School districts would have to be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education before implementing any new programs, like extended learning hours or eclectic courses that still follow academic standards.

The bill is a step in the right direction, said University of Kentucky professor Dr. Wayne Lewis who spoke this year at the Louisville Forum in support of charter schools. But, it is still more limiting because charter schools allow those outside the district to also have a chance at changing education through innovation, he said.

Some board members and new JPCS chief academic officer Dewey Hensley said they support the bill.

“Let’s say in the future we have a situation where a student needed, or a group of students needed, a non traditional approach that required a different school day or different amounts of seat time…we would be looking at how we could remove obstacles to that,” said Hensley.

The bill is a shift in the approach of meeting the needs for individual students and sometimes this requires innovation, he said.

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