Local boards and the state board of education should have the final say in approving and overseeing charter schools if the 2017 General Assembly allows them in Kentucky, state board of education members said Wednesday.
Board members did not state their support of charter schools but recommended a framework of best practices if legislation is inevitable. They tweaked their recommendations throughout Wednesday afternoon.
Board member Roger Marcum and others said they had reservations about whether charter schools would close achievement gaps or help students but thought the state board should weigh in on the legislative conversation.
Board members came to several points of consensus on recommendations they would share with the General Assembly.
One of them said that if multiple authorizers — entities that are overseeing charter schools — are allowed, the number should be capped and limited to groups that include nonsectarian, non-profit organizations and universities.
“It’s a starting point for the conversation,” Kentucky Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said in an interview. “At the end of the day, it’s the General Assembly’s decision.”
Charters differ from other public schools in that the authorizer or overseer and the charter operator enter into a performance-based contract, or charter, that spells out the school’s governance, funding, accountability and flexibility, education officials have said.
Forty-three states and Washington, D.C., have some form of charter schools.
No legislation had been prefiled in the General Assembly by Wednesday. In 2016, a bill failed in the legislature that would have allowed charter schools as a pilot in Fayette and Jefferson counties, urban districts with an achievement gap between minority, disabled and low-income students and other students. Gov. Matt Bevin is in favor of charter schools, and a bill could be more likely to pass in the coming legislative session since Republicans won control of the state House in the election in November.
A document outlining the state board’s recommendations said entities authorizing charter schools would grant charters, enter into performance based contracts, have oversight of charters and establish evaluation criteria for finances, academics, revocations and other areas.
Among other recommendations:
▪ Charter school applicants and providers should be non-profit, nonsectarian, and cannot be wholly or partially governed by a group that is a religious denomination or affiliation. If an applicant is rejected, an appeal process should be handled by the Kentucky Board of Education.
▪ Required reporting from charters to lawmakers, the Kentucky Board of Education, and the Education Department would include information such as performance and achievement gap and expulsion and discipline data.
▪ Charter schools would be in the state assessment and accountability system. Education Professional Standards Board certification should be required for teachers in charter schools. Authorizers should focus on approving applications that target at-risk and/or under-served populations of students.
▪ A charter school should be available to any parent in the district or in a defined region for a regional charter school.
▪ If a charter school is over-crowded, a free and fair lottery should be held to determine enrollment. Expectations for parental involvement should be outlined and required.
▪ Funding for charter schools should not detrimentally impact the funding provided to “common schools” of the public school district, and all schools should have fair and equitable funding. Charter schools should be required to provide special education evaluation and services just like a “common school.”
▪ Graduation requirements and diploma authority should remain with the local board of education.
In other action, Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner proposed to the board that Kentucky grade its schools using an A through F rating system in the new accountability system that would be implemented in the 2018-19 school year.
“There is no school rating system more clear and easy for parents and communities to understand than an A-F school grading system,” Heiner said in a report accompanying his presentation.
Work is continuing on the new system, Pruitt said. He said he appreciated Heiner’s thoughts, but “I think we need to wait and let the process play out.”