Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Movement on Charters in Kentucky

The Commissioner responded last week to doubts about Kentucky's eligibility for Race to the Top funds saying,
The focus of the turnaround schools requirement is on improving student achievement outcomes. That is something everyone in Kentucky can support. We have had experience in Kentucky working with turnaround efforts that we need to build upon.
In my previous experience as a local superintendent, I have worked very well with charter schools. I think Kentucky should keep an open conversation going about the best possible solutions for raising achievement and closing achievement gaps. I feel certain the conversation will include all of the options espoused by Sec. Duncan....
...I do believe we will be able to respond to these [turnaround] criteria.
The issue of charter schools is listed as a “selection criteria” under the reform area of “Turning Around Struggling Schools.” As such, Kentucky's lack of legislation enabling charter schools will count against the state, but it will not make Kentucky ineligible to apply for the Race to the Top fund. The other selection criteria in the “Turning Around Struggling Schools” reform area relates to intervening in low-performing schools. It is our opinion that our efforts since the Kentucky Education Reform Act with regard to interventions in low-performing schools could give us “bonus” points on our application and thus offset the charter school issue.
Lack of charter schools could cost state stimulus funds

This from the Paducah Sun: (subscription)

Kentucky education officials hope the state will qualify for a share of nearly $5 billion in federal education funds intended to help pay for programs that encourage innovation and accountability....

Criteria for funding is still being developed but Duncan said preference will be given to states that have charter schools. That could cause problems for Kentucky, one of 11 states without them...

However, [Lisa Gross of the Kentucky Department of Education] said the state is reviewing the charter school concept that began in Minnesota in 1991.

“We are looking at charters — the pros and cons, financing, oversight and etceteras,” she said. “We’ve not had a position on those in the past, mainly because they’ve not had a lot of attention in the state.”

State Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, believes that the legislature may begin debate on charter schools at next year’s legislative session. He is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Like Gross, Winters believes Kentucky should qualify for some of the funding because of innovative programs that accomplish the same goals as charter schools.

He specifically mentioned Senate Bill 1, passed recently, that has incentive programs to teach engineering, improve test scores, increase participation in advance placement courses and encourage students to begin their college education early by taking equivalency tests to qualify for college credit.

“There are no laws that specifically prohibit charters, but there would have to be legislation introduced and regulations promulgated that would outline how they’d be set up, who has oversight, how funding is managed and other items,” Gross said.

The only potential problem is that they could not be private schools because of a constitutional prohibition against using public funds for private education.

She said the department of education has no plans to recommend charter school legislation to the General Assembly, but that could change if the state determines it isn’t eligible for “Race to the Top” funds.

Meanwhile, some education officials nationwide feel Duncan is using strong-armed tactics to force the expansion of the charter school concept....

Hat tip to KSBA.


Anonymous said...

I work with Charter Schools across your southern border in Tennessee. We know the horror stories of Charter Schools from other states and have NOT repeated them in Tennessee.

We go very slow, ensure only the most qualified are approved for a charter and then have very high expectations of them. If a Tennessee charter school fails AYP 2 years in a row they are closed. It keeps the charter schools completely focused on academic results, and it works. With 27 charter schools only 1 has ever been closed. And only 2 of the 26 operating charter schools have failed AYP one year in a row. On top of this for 2007 and 2008 the Top Title I school in the entire state (roughly 950 Title I schools) has been a Tennessee charter school! Two different ones!

Contact the Executive Director of their Association to ask questions. You can do charter schools the right way, and the wrong way. Tennessee is the right way!

Anonymous said...

Duncan also emphasized the importance of charter schools to the administration’s reform efforts, and praised Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Rhode Island and Tennessee for removing barriers to charter school growth.