Despite bumps, a Kentucky charter school bill seeks to fund the state's first charter schools as it passes the education committee.
Despite numerous bumps in the road, Kentucky’s controversial House Bill 9, one that would help fund Kentucky charter schools, just took a massive step forward. The bill first survived a close House vote before moving on to the Senate where the Education Committee easily passed it with an 8-3 vote. This passage came in spite of extensive testimony given by Kentucky’s teachers and school administrators. The Senate also heard testimony in opposition to the bill from KY120 United-AFT, a well-known Kentucky teachers’ group.
In fact, not only did KY120 United-AFT give testimony, but they also filed a legislative ethics complaint to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission against a member of the Kentucky Senate. The complaint is filed against Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell claims she has a personal connection via her husband to a Kentucky company whose executive has spoken of a strong desire to create a charter school. Banta’s husband, Tom Banta, is the chief of real estate for the Corporex company. They are building a $1 billion multi-use Ovation complex in Newport, Kentucky. Corporex owner, Bill Butler, has mentioned previously that he wants to build a private K-8 school in the state and even called his project an “urban academy.”
“The votes by Rep. Banta on the bill potentially outline clear self-dealing and violations of the Code of Ethics governing Kentucky legislators,” the KY120 United-AFT complaint reads against the Kentucky charter school bill. “Rep. Banta was one of the deciding votes… that will result in (direct financial) benefit and support to her husband’s employer, her husband and herself.” Banta was forced to defend her position after her possible connection was brought to the forefront. The state’s newspaper, The Courier Journal, reported on Banta’s husband’s connection to Butler and from there, KY120 stepped in. Banta tried to set the record straight on her involvement first claiming the complaint is meritless. “I don’t gain anything from this,” she said via The Courier Journal.
Along with their complaint, KY120 United-AFT asked Max Wise, committee chairman, to remove the Kentucky charter schools bill from Senate consideration. That request failed. The bill faces even more opposition on top of KY120. A number of school advocacy groups, which includes KY120 the largest teacher’s union, have made their positions known. These also include the Kentucky Board of Education, Fayette County Public Schools, and Jefferson County Public Schools.
According to McCoy, the Kentucky charter schools bill has three major actions. The first is that it will create a funding model for charter schools in the state. Charter schools are already legal, but they do not have a funding mechanism. The second is protection for public schools with less than 7,500 students. It will give these districts the chance to veto any proposed charter school within their territory. The third action is that the bill will mandate two pilot charter schools in Northern Kentucky as well as West Louisville.
Other opponents to the Kentucky charter schools bill spoke out. After McCoy commented that the creation of charter schools within the state wouldn’t affect public school districts, an Eastern Kentucky Superintendent took exception to the statement. “If you take one dime from the budget and put it into a public charter school, it’s gonna take away from public education, it’s going to take away from our public schools,” said Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Robbie Fletcher in opposition.
Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Demetrus Liggins has also spoken out against the Kentucky charter schools bill. He pointed to Texas and the several charter schools that operate in the Lone Star state. Liggins claims his experience as a principal and public school administrator in the state has shown him that these charter schools typically fall way short of the promises they make to families. He also says that charter schools are set up to serve the more affluent student whose parents are more involved.
The Kentucky charter schools bill was sponsored by Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown and after having received two readings in the Senate, it just received a 22-14 vote to move it to Kentucky governor Andy Beshear’s desk for his signature. Gov. Beshear’s 10-day veto period will start on Thursday.
Whether the Kentucky charter schools bill passes muster with Gov. Beshear is the big question. Things, though, don’t look good for HB 9. Although it has made it through the legislature, Gov. Beshear has already made it known that if the bill gets to his desk that he would veto it.