Education

Babbage firm selected to lobby for Fayette County public schools

Lobbyists Bob Babbage, left, and Alan Stein on Thursday talked with Fayette County school board members, including Doug Barnett and Ray Daniels, right.
Lobbyists Bob Babbage, left, and Alan Stein on Thursday talked with Fayette County school board members, including Doug Barnett and Ray Daniels, right. vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com

The Fayette County school board on Thursday voted to hire the firm of former state auditor Bob Babbage to lobby for the district in the 2017 legislature.

The annual contract amount with Babbage’s firm, Babbage Cofounder, is $60,750, district officials said.

In a written presentation to the board, Babbage said his goal was to have lawmakers and other state policymakers ask, “What does Manny (Superintendent Caulk) think? How about Lexington? What’s the position of that board? We will be prepared to stand in for you, but as often as possible make our friendships, our professional relationships, yours.”

Babbage said his staff, which includes Lexington businessman Alan Stein, would also work to improve the district’s media presence.

Other firms vying for the contract were led by former state treasurer Jonathan Miller and by political consultant Phil Osborne.

Babbage discussed pension reform, transportation funding, and tax reform with the school board on Thursday. He said charter school legislation and a wide-ranging public education bill are among issues that would be prominent when the legislature resumes in February.

With public charter schools, an organizer would enter into a performance-based contract, or charter, with a board or official providing oversight that spells out the school’s governance, funding, accountability and flexibility.

Kim Haggerty, a teacher at Leestown Middle School; Jennifer Caravello, a parent; and Rick Smith, a parent who also works in the district’s maintenance department, all came to Thursday’s board meeting because they are concerned about House Bill 103, which would allow charter schools in Kentucky.

“I’m very concerned about the fact that it would divert public money that would normally go to the public school systems to these charter schools, which would take away resources,” Haggerty said in an interview. She said she would rather see non-charter public schools strengthened.

In general, Fayette school board members don’t want to see charter schools in Kentucky, but they want to minimize the impact if charter schools are inevitable.

The Fayette school board will meet with Babbage and his staff at a work session next week to set the district’s legislative agenda.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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