A grassroots organization for public education, Save Our Schools Kentucky, made a last-ditch effort Monday to urge state lawmakers to say no to charter schools.
Meanwhile, key state Republican senators were working on how to handle the legislation, House Bill 520, that the state House approved March 3 on a 56-39 vote.
John Cox, a spokesman for the Senate majority GOP, said Monday it has not yet been determined when the Senate Education Committee might consider the bill.
“I think whatever happens to it, we should know in the next two days,” said Cox.
Lawmakers meet Tuesday and Wednesday this week and would like to finish with their votes on all bills this week. That would preserve their authority to override any vetoes by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin when they return March 29 and 30, the final two days of the law-making session.
Lawmakers could pass bills those days but would lose their power to override any gubernatorial vetoes of that legislation. The governor has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to consider whether to veto legislation sent to him.
The sponsor of HB 520, House Education Chairman John Carney, a Republican from Campbellsville, said he was pleased with negotiations that took place between House and Senate members last week on the charter school legislation.
He said Senate leaders planned to talk with their members over the weekend and members from both chambers would be meeting again Monday.
On Friday, Carney said he did not think the Senate would insist on a pilot project for charter schools. The House legislation proposes an unlimited number of charter schools.
Proponents of charter schools, including Bevin, say they will help close the achievement gap prevalent with minority, low income and disabled children.
Opponents say charter schools would take money from already underfunded public schools without providing a better education.
Kentucky is one of only seven states that do not have charter schools.
In public charter schools, an organizer would enter into a performance-based contract, or charter, with an oversight board or entity that spells out the school’s governance, funding, accountability and flexibility. For-profit and non-profit groups could organize charter schools. A public charter school would be part of the state’s system of public education. But public charter schools would be exempt from state school laws and regulations, except the same health, safety, civil rights, and disability rights as public schools.
At a news conference Monday in the Capitol Rotunda, Gay Adelmann, a co-founder of Save Our Schools Kentucky, said opponents of charter schools should contact their legislators, noting that HB 520 could win approval in the Senate as early as Tuesday.
Lucy Waterbury, who identified herself as a Fayette County taxpayer and a public school parent, said she is alarmed by “how flippantly and recklessly we seem to want to create a parallel governance of schools in Kentucky without having a public dialogue” on HB 520.
David Allen, a former president of the Kentucky Education Association and retired educator, said charter schools in Kentucky will produce “a parallel universe” that will be costly.