FRANKFORT — The Republican-led Senate approved a bill Friday to allow charter schools in Kentucky but House Speaker Greg Stumbo said it wouldn't go far in his Democratic-led chamber.
The Senate approved Senate Bill 8 on a 23-12 vote and sent it to the House for its consideration.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, would set up a five-year pilot program for as many as five charter schools in Fayette and Jefferson counties.
The schools would be funded on a per-pupil basis out of state money but be held accountable to a charter authority.
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Opposition to using state money for the charter schools was an argument used by several Democratic senators in voting against the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said that the state should look at alternative ways to try to improve schools but that it's "financially irresponsible" to siphon money from public education.
Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, echoed those sentiments and said he hasn't had one parent tell him the legislation is needed.
Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, responded that she is a parent and grandparent in Fayette County who supports the bill.
"It's another tool in the tool box," she said.
The bill is opposed by the state's two largest teacher unions — the Kentucky Education Association and the Jefferson County Teacher Association.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said it will be received in the House, "and then it likely won't move very far."
He said House Education Chairman Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, is working on an alternative approach to allow public school districts some flexibility.
"We think they already have the flexibility, but we want to make it clear that they have that flexibility to do alternative-type schools if they choose to and leave it at the district level," Stumbo said.