A closer look at the future of charter schools in Kentucky

By Emilie Arroyo |

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – The Kentucky Board of Education is taking a new direction after the resignation of education commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt and Gov. Matt Bevin’s appointments of new board members this week.

Many expect that direction to be a stronger push for charter schools, but Kentucky’s legislature ended its 2018 session with no funding process in place.

“They [charter schools] would be pretty exclusively in our state, I think, in some of our urban cores. Some of our inner cities where we see most of our failing schools,” said Gov. Bevin in a news conference Tuesday. “I don’t think anyone had the expectation that schools would be opening immediately.”

While it’s unclear when Kentucky will see it’s first charter school, we do know how it will work.

Both charter schools and public schools:

    • are open to the public
    • funded by state and federal tax dollars
    • are tuition free
    • must meet state graduation standards
    • take state assessment tests
    • hire state-certified teachers

According to UK educational policy professor Joseph Waddington, the big difference comes in school structure and flexibility.

“Whether it’s in terms of how how classes are structured, the types of thematic programs that are offered such as a science charter school, an arts charter school. The way that teaching takes place in the classroom,” said Waddington.

Charter schools differ from traditional public schools in several ways:

    • They have open admission, while public schools zone by geographical location
    • They are managed independently, while public schools are managed by school districts
    • They do not have access to local tax dollars

“With charter schools typically, the only sources on which they draw are the state appropriations and the federal appropriations such as Title I funding. They don’t have access to the local resources such as property taxes or income taxes,” explained Waddington.

“With respect to the funding, I don’t know that it changes things that dramatically, but over time if there’s not financial support, it makes it more difficult for them, I would think,” said Gov. Bevin.

WKYT checked in with both Fayette County Public Schools and the Lexington mayor’s office since both have the power to approve the opening of a charter school.

While Louisville is now accepting applications to open a charter school in 2019, a school district representative in Lexington says they have no updates on how they will handle requests.

The mayor’s office says while they’ve had interest, no one has formally applied with them.



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