by Brian Washington
Take Action ›
Tell lawmakers it’s time for tougher standards and more oversight and accountability for charter schools. Click here ›
Kentucky educators are talking about how they managed to make charter schools legislation better and next steps now that the bill they still oppose and believe will harm students and public schools is about to become law.
House Bill 520 was approved by both the Kentucky House and Senate and now sits on Governor Matt Bevin’s desk awaiting his signature. Bevin, who testified in favor of the bill before legislative committees, is expected to sign it soon.
Under the bill, local school boards and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington can authorize charters in their respective districts and cities. Charter schools receive taxpayer dollars but are managed privately (in many cases by for-profit companies) and not held to the same rigorous regulations and standards of traditional public schools.
Also, unlike public schools, charter schools do not serve all students, but they drain away badly needed funding from public schools and the vast majority of students who attend them.
Stephanie Winkler, a fourth-grade teacher who leads the Kentucky Education Association, which represents thousands of educators across the state, says she and her education colleagues managed to convince lawmakers to add language to ensure charter school educators are certified by the state standards board.
Students should be taught by certified teachers who go through a vetting process by our standards board to make sure they are properly trained and have the knowledge to deliver content, manage a classroom, and be able to survive in an environment that is unlike any other profession.
Virtual charter schools, or online charters, which school choice advocates have even criticized for failing to provide students with a quality education, were originally part of the bill. However, Winkler says the student-focused concerns teachers raised resulted in lawmakers thinking twice about virtual charters and removing them from the bill.
“Our concerns focused on a lack of oversight,” said Winkler. “Because there’s no oversight with virtual charters, you don’t know if there’s a teacher that’s monitoring the student’s work. They are just not in the best interest of our kids.”
Winkler says the educators who make up KEA also worked with lawmakers to put limits on the practice of converting existing, traditional public schools into charters.
But despite the changes, Winkler says educators still oppose the bill and believe lawmakers need to invest more in our public schools and the students who attend them. She says now that House Bill 520 is on its way to becoming law, it will lead to charter schools syphoning critical funding away from the state’s public schools. She adds the legislation also lacks the necessary accountability and transparency requirements needed to ensure students get the education they deserve and give taxpayers the assurance that their investment is not going to be misappropriated.
“I think the next step for parents, educators, and taxpayers is to become informed about this new charter schools bill, and, if charters are authorized in their districts, they need to be aware of what it could mean for their local public schools,” said Winkler. “We all need to be diligent and follow where the money is going to make sure these new charter schools are doing right by our students and the communities they are supposed to serve.”