Frankfort Local News

Charter School Supporters Vow to Continue Their Fight

When the current Kentucky legislative session ends this week, many issues will be left on the table for future years.

One of those issues is charter schools. Kentucky is among nine states without charters, and the push to change that has been polarizing in Frankfort. A compromise to create a pilot charter project was close to passage last month, but it fell apart.

“Well it certainly looks like charter schools are dead for this General Assembly,” says former Louisville mayoral candidate Hal Heiner. Heiner is the head of a recently-formed group that ran TV ads in support of charters earlier this year.

“You know my hope is that Kentucky would follow Tennessee’s lead for instance where they called a special session for charter schools, their Democratic governor called a special session, they expanded their charter school program,” he says.

Heiner blames teachers’ unions for blocking the legislation. But union leaders say charter schools don’t guarantee academic success. They want the state to wait until the most recently-implemented education reforms take full effect before considering charters.

Heiner declined to say what his new pro-charter group plans to do for the rest of this year.

“Well certainly the growth of the grassroots movement that I think has just in the past year has doubled in terms of what I see in terms of parents saying it’s just simply time for educational choice. This one size fits all system doesn’t really fit all,” he says.

Frankfort Local News

Legislative Wrangling Kills Two Plans for Education Reform

An attempt to piggyback charter school legislation on another bill has likely killed two plans for education reform in Kentucky.

The state Senate Education committee today added language legalizing charter schools to a charter alternative plan sponsored by Representative Carl Rollins, who chairs the House Education Committee. Charter supporters hoped Rollins would allow the amendment in order to see his alternative become law, but it’s unlikely the plan will work.

“The charter school part of the bill has no chance and I’m pretty sure the whole bill is dead,” says Rollins.

Rollins’s original plan would allow entire districts to be exempted from some state rules, much like charter schools. But under his proposal, the schools would be required to produce certain results.

The Senate added language to the measure to allow no more than 20 charter schools statewide. Half of those charters would have to be within three miles of a school where at least half of the students are in the free or reduced lunch program.

Supporters say the amendment was necessary because the House Education Committee didn’t vote on another bill that would have legalized charter schools. Rollins says he didn’t block a vote on the charter bill, it simply wasn’t popular enough.

“I was perfectly willing to vote on that bill,” he says. “The truth is the sponsor asked me not to vote, not to call for a vote, because it had very few yes votes. There is very little support for charter schools in the House,” he says.

Local News

Rep. Rollins Speaks Out Against Charter Schools

Kentucky’s charter school bill remains in House committee leaving some concerned over whether Rep. Carl Rollins (D) will give the bill a hearing.

Rollins was recently interviewed by CN2 and he, again, restated his position against the schools arguing charters don’t improve the public school system and saying the schools don’t result in student achievement, despite mixed reports  of which some show success.

Instead, Rollins said we would like to create a more comprehensive evaluation system partly based on student achievement. This may include giving peers, students and parents the chance to review a specific teacher, but would weigh the input accordingly.

Rollins further said he would consider additional pay for highly evaluated teachers willing to move to a more challenged districts.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Members Urge State Lawmakers to Support Charter Schools

A bipartisan group of Louisville Metro Council members have signed a letter urging the Kentucky General Assembly to support charter schools legislation.

Earlier this week, the House Education Committee held a hearing on a bill that would create charter schools in the state. Several supporters testified that Kentucky is being left behind as one of the nine states without the education alternative.

Councilwoman Cheri Bryant-Hamilton, D-5, was one city lawmaker who signed the petition calling on the state legislature to pass the bill. She says the broadening coalition of council Democrats and Republican from various parts of the city should show leaders in Frankfort that the commonwealth needs to provide local communities with more educational choices.

“We want all the tools in the toolbox and I don’t think one-size fits all. I don’t think sitting next to another child is going to improve my education, but I think the small class size, extended day and Saturday school, a lot of the tools in charter schools appeals to people and to parents,” she says.

Frankfort Local News

After Years of Debate, Charter Schools Bill Gets First Hearing

After several years, a bill allowing charter schools in Kentucky has received a hearing in a House committee.

Advocates for and against the measure spent this morning debating the merits of the education reform in the capitol. Charter school administrators from other states joined Rep. Brad Montell, the bill’s sponsor, and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce president Dave Adkisson in support of the bill.

If approved, charter schools would operate as public schools in Kentucky, meaning they could receive public funds. And House Bill 77 allows for charters to be approved either by local school boards or a new state oversight agency. If a charter doesn’t turn things around in a district in five years, it can be shuttered.

Opponents often point to mixed performance results as proof that charters are not a cure-all for education. But Adkisson says that’s a poor argument.

“You know the best argument I’ve heard against charter schools has been well the results are mixed, the research on these is mixed,” he says. “You know I have three grandkids in Lexington. If they were stuck in a consistently low-performing schools and if somebody said, by the way, there’s an alternative but the results are mixed, I would gamble on mixed results every time.”

Opponents against charter schools included the Kentucky Education Association and a few of its members and the state association of school superintendents.

The teachers urged lawmakers to wait for current reforms to fully take effect before trying charter schools. And they say allowing charters would take away needed money for current school projects. And Executive Director of the State Association for School Superintendents Wilson Sears says current public schools get too much blame. He says charter school advocates don’t account for the personal and social factors that lead students to bad get grades.

“These are not problems created by public schools, although we are routinely criticized for not solving them,” he says. “Furthermore, these are no problems that can be solved by charter schools, magnet schools, home schooling or private schooling. There are no magic solutions.”

Charter school advocates said some charters, called wrap-arounds, allow students to stay at the school for longer hours than normal to compensate for bad home lives.

House Education Committee Chairman Carl Rollins says the panel will continue holding hearings until lawmakers feel confident in their knowledge of the issue.

Local News

Charter School Supporters Prepare for House Education Committee Tuesday

Representatives from the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) are asking state lawmakers to move forward with charter school legislation this year.

BAEO representatives held a forum at Quinn Chapel Church in west Louisville Monday night. Nearly 50 people attended the event, where advocates rallied in support of charter school legislation. The key note speaker was Dr. Howard Fuller, a former superintendent of Milwaukee Public School District and co-founder of BAEO.

Frankfort Local News

Charter Schools Bill Will Get Committee Hearing

A bill allowing charter schools in Kentucky will get a hearing in the House Education Committee.

Chairman Carl Rollins has set February 14th as the hearing date, but that could change if the deadline for candidates to file to run for General Assembly seats is pushed back again. Rollins still doesn’t support charter schools, but thinks it’s time for the bill to be discussed.

“I’m allowing it to be heard because it’s time to have the discussion,” Rollins says. “I don’t think the prospects are good for it in my committee, but I hate to predict what my committee will do cause I can be surprised sometimes.”

Rollins has sponsored his own bill that would create charter-like districts of innovation across Kentucky. The measure has already cleared committee. And while Rollins’s bill works inside the current system and charters don’t, Rollins says both could become law without conflicting.

“So you know if we did Districts of Innovation that could still exist and some districts may want to use that,” he says. “If the charter schools did pass some districts may, well some may just appear, districts may not have much to do with it.”

Opponents of charter schools say they drain too much money from other regular public schools and can’t promise educational improvement.

Advocates of the legislation say Kentucky’s system is too broken not to try charter schools, which are successful in some areas.  Those same advocates say Rollins’s innovation bill doesn’t go far enough.

One group supporting charter schools, Kentuckians Advocating Reforms in Education (KARE), has been airing TV ads in support of the issue. KARE and other charter school groups recently held a rally in the Capitol Rotunda supporting the measure.

Frankfort Local News

While Rallying for Charter Schools, Supporters Ask Unions to Stand Aside

Advocates for charter schools in Kentucky took their cause to Frankfort today.

A handful of organizations support charter schools. One of the most vocal has been the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities or BAEO. Its national president, Kenneth Campbell, helped lead the rally for charter schools at the Capitol. And he told the crowd Kentucky’s education system doesn’t serve all students equally.

“You know children and families in Kentucky are in crisis, as they are in a lot of places across this country,” Campbell said. “And the one tool we have for turning this whole thing around is education. And it doesn’t work for too many of our children. So what we want is for the political leaders of Kentucky to take a stand on behalf of children.

Frankfort Local News

Charter School Advocates Release Second TV Ad

Sensing their time is coming, advocates of charter schools in Kentucky are doubling down on their efforts.

One such group, Kentuckians for Reform in Education, or KARE, is out with their second TV advertisement supporting charter schools. KARE is run by former Louisville mayoral candidate Hal Heiner, and the ad is running statewide on network and cable TV. It follows an advertising push from the beginning of this month. 

Local News

Louisville Forum Hears Charter School Debate

Charter school advocates say Kentucky should join the 41 other states that have adopted legislation allowing charters, which use state money to fund unique education opportunities.

The debate over charter schools has been contentious in past years in Kentucky, and this year looks no different while the two sides of Kentucky’s charter school feud say finances, choice and success can all be debated.

At a Louisville Forum debate on charter schools Wednesday, opponents brought literature and data as artillery. Jefferson County Public Schools director of accountability Robert Rodosky said the district is a leader in national math and reading tests.