Ky. Senate committee advances charter school bill
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky senators could vote as early as Tuesday on controversial legislation that would fund charter schools.
By a vote of 8 to 3, the Senate education committee passed House Bill 9 late Monday afternoon, but not before hearing from public education advocates who stand against it.
Debates lasted for more than an hour. Teachers and parents spoke out about their concerns for what they say charter schools would do to public schools, and take away funding.
Those in support say it would give parents more options operate like to public schools.
The bill is just one vote away from heading to the governor’s desk.
“We’re not asking you to create a private school for these children, but to create a mechanism for them to get the best education that they can,” said Pastor Jerry Stevenson.
“We understand the needs of our community. Please hear us. Work with us and not against us by handing over critical resources to an unproven system,” said Jessica Hiler with the Fayette County Education Association.
Republican Representative Chad McCoy sponsors the bill. He says it would provide a permanent funding mechanism for charter schools, give smaller school districts the final say on applications and require a charter school to be established in Louisville and northern Kentucky as a pilot project.
“I encourage you not to be misled by hyperbole. I encourage you not to be led by fear. This bill is not about whether or not charter schools are legal in Kentucky,” Rep. McCoy said.
Superintendents from across Kentucky spoke against the bill. Lawrence County’s superintendent said the legislation would be devastating to rural Kentucky districts.
“We were told that you could put multiple districts together and form a charter. If that’s the case, rural eastern Kentucky is just as in danger as Jefferson County,” Lawrence County Superintendent Dr. Robbie Fletcher said.
Governor Beshear has said he would veto any charter school legislation. The General Assembly has the votes to override a veto. But to do that, the bill needs to pass by Wednesday.
Before Monday’s hearing, Kentucky 120 United called for the bill to be removed from the agenda for an ethics investigation. They said state Representative Kim Banta previously voted in favor of the bill, and now there are reports that her husband works for a real estate firm that has previously expressed interest in opening a “urban academy.” Rep. Banta denies these claims. She says she’s done nothing wrong and these are false rumors.
The Senate convenes at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
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