Kentucky state legislators recently delivered a big victory for K-12 students: They will soon have access to charter schools. Kentucky is now the 44th state to enact this school-choice reform, which has proven highly effective at improving the lives of millions of children.
Yet, despite the benefits that await Kentucky’s children, opponents of the law are spreading misinformation, and in some instances outright lies, about its effects. It’s time to set the record straight.
Start with opponents’ chief argument — that students from lower-income backgrounds will be excluded from charter school admissions. Nonsense. Charter schools, like other educational institutions across the commonwealth, are required to follow federal guidelines for low-income students. In fact, the very language of the new legislation gives special consideration for the over 70 percent of Kentucky students who fit into this category.
Additionally, the legislation requires charter schools to specify in their application the specific student population they intend to serve. Local school boards then have the authority to deny the application of any charter school that would not meet local communities’ needs.
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Opponents also argue charter schools pick and choose only the best students, leaving behind those with special needs or lacking in educational achievement. Also nonsense. Under the legislation, if there are more applicants to the charter school than there are available slots, enrollment will be decided by random lottery conducted in an open meeting.
There’s no gaming that.
The legislation also requires that charters “provide programs and services to a student with a disability in accordance with … all federal and state laws, rules, and regulations.” Any school found to violate this standard can — and rightly should — have their charter revoked.
There’s also no truth to the claim that charter schools might have unqualified or unregulated educators. All teachers in the commonwealth, regardless of where they teach, must be fully accredited. Indeed, the legislation specifically requires charter schools to “hire only qualified teachers to provide student instruction,” which the legislation defines as those who have been certified by the state Education Professional Standards Board.
Last, opponents argue charter schools will be bad because they will be allowed to contract with for-profit companies. But public schools already do contract with for-profit companies for many goods and services, such as textbooks, technology and professional development. And the legislation expressly requires charters to comply with the same “open records and open meetings requirements” that apply to schools today.
In other words, this is one of the most transparent bills in the nation.
When you brush away the scare tactics, the benefits of welcoming charter schools to the commonwealth stand even taller. Charter schools are a critical component of school choice, empowering parents to give their children access to the best education options possible. When parents choose the best school for their child, that is true local control.
A Courier-Journal report looked at how charters perform in Indiana, whose law served partly as a model for Kentucky’s law. The report finds charter schools narrowed socioeconomic gaps in student reading and math performance, while a study by the RAND Corporation found charter school students nationally are up to 10 percent more likely to attend college. More benefits abound.
State legislators deserve great credit for taking a principled stand with parents and their children, rather than with special interests that want to preserve the status quo. As parents, one thing we can agree on is that our children deserve the best opportunity to succeed.
This new charter school legislation will make that dream a reality for thousands of Kentucky kids.
Julia Crigler is the Kentucky state director of Americans for Prosperity.