In addition, Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, has filed a bill that would create a school voucher-like program allowing special needs students to redirect per-pupil public school funding to pay for private schools or private tutoring.
Sen. Mike Wilson
Efforts to bring vouchers and charter schools to the Bluegrass State have been going on for years, but with a new Republican governor that has championed charter schools and vouchers and a House that could be moving closer to Republican control, the chances seem greater compared to recent years that such legislation could pass.
Tuesday was the last day for House members to file bills this session, and Thursday is the last day for Senate members to do so.
The charter school bill filed Tuesday by Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, is similar to those he's filed in previous years.
The bill, SB 253, would essentially create a five-year pilot charter school program in Jefferson and Fayette counties, with a maximum of two charter schools allowed to open per year in each county. It would create a "Kentucky Public Charter School Commission," which would have members appointed by the governor and could approve charter applications and provide oversight.
The bill would have charter schools target low-income students for priority acceptance, with extra spots opened up to other students on a lottery basis.
Wilson on Wednesday said he doesn't know if his charter school bill will pass this year, but said that "any year that we have kids that are in a failing school with an achievement gap as much as 40 percent, it's really unconscionable. This is another tool that could be provided to help those kids."
The House charter school bill, HB 589, filed Tuesday by Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, is similar to the Senate version.
Wuchner said her bill, HB 620, would not create a voucher program, but said the bill would create individual educational accounts so the families of students with disabilities could take some of the money that is designated for their education to use for participating private schools or programs.
"This is a way ... to allow parents to use those taxpayer dollars to meet the needs of a very specific group of students," Wuchner said. "It's a newer concept for Kentucky but it's time we start to explore how we can meet the needs of this particular group of students."
Other education bills that were filed right before the House deadline include:
» A bill that would prohibit the state from implementing Common Core and Next Generation Science standards. HB 553 would require the state board of education to recommend new content standards after public input and consultation with the Council on Postsecondary Education, and it would prohibit the state from withholding funds from school districts for adopting different academic content standards;
» A bill (HB 555) that would allow Kentucky residents who are attending high schools in other states that border Kentucky to still earn Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) money;
» A bill (HB 567) that would move the Education Professional Standards Board under the auspices of the Kentucky Department of Education. The EPSB, which is currently a separate organization, issues and renews teacher certificates, among other roles.