A charter schools bill is on a steady course to clear the Republican state Senate but seems sure to stall when it hits the Democratic House.
The Senate Education Committee on Thursday passed Senate Bill 176 on a party line vote with majority Republicans voting in favor.
The bill would allow a local board of education to designate a persistently low-achieving school as a charter school.
The only witness for the bill Thursday was a Democratic state representative from Georgia, Alisha Thomas Morgan, who said she once opposed charter schools.
“It wasn’t until I started visiting them and seeing the impact they were having on kids — particularly low-income kids and students of color — that I realized that my mind needed to change,” Morgan said.
Morgan said Kentucky is one of just seven states that does not allow charter schools in some form.
SB 176 passed on a 6-4 vote with all four Democrats voting no. It now goes to the Senate floor, where the Republican majority is expected to pass it.
But it then will head to the House Education Committee, where its journey for the 2013 legislative session is likely to end.
“I’m doubtful if there’s much support on the House Education Committee to get it out of committee,” said House Education Committee Chairman Carl Rollins. “There are a lot of educators on there, people who’ve worked in the public schools, and they don’t support the whole concept of charter schools.”
Sharron Oxendine, who is president of the Kentucky Education Association and attended Thursday’s meeting, said later that the main problem for Kentucky public schools has been inadequate funding.
“Instead of giving resources and attention on a small group of schools, let’s make them available to every Kentucky kid. Let’s not wait until a school becomes a persistently low-achieving school before we start paying attention to it,” she said.
But advocates for HB 176 say they have hope for this session because they say lawmakers can see the need for improvement, particularly in Jefferson County schools.
“This bill will require the school district to try other forms of education for persistently low-achieving schools,” said Hal Heiner, a former member of the Louisville Metro Council. “In Jefferson County we have 16 of the 17 lowest-performing schools in the state. It’s simply time to try different forms of education.”