Education

Would charter school funding proposal hurt public schools? Senate plan sparks debate.

Word that the Kentucky Senate had proposed a mechanism to fund charter schools after the current method expires in June drew strong reactions on social media and among lawmakers this week .

A Facebook post from a group called Friends of Labor on Wednesday said “this legislation requires local school districts to divert money away from public schools and fund charter schools.”

“That is the same -- worse even -- than cutting public school funding,” the post said.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, on the Senate floor Tuesday, said he thought charter schools deprived public education of money and “probably at some point, devastates the SEEK funding.”

The Support Education Excellence in Kentucky -- SEEK -- funding program is the formula driven allocation of state funds to local school districts.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R- Taylor Mill, who presented the proposal on the Senate floor said that Ridley had a “misguided notion.” He said the Senate’s proposal for funding charter schools now included in House Bill 366 was exactly the same as the current mechanism that expires in June. It says that funding for charter school students is based upon attendance for a charter student who lives within the local school district where the public charter school is located. The guaranteed base per pupil for the school year 2016-17 was $3,981.

Public charter schools would be required to receive a proportionate share of funding calculated in the same way as the local school district uses to give funds to its typical schools. Charter schools would get most of the money that traditional public schools get through the SEEK formula, with some exceptions.

House Bill 366, an act related to revenue measures, passed the Senate 23-15 Tuesday with the Senate proposal included. On Wednesday, the House did not concur with the Senate’s changes so each chamber is expected to appoint lawmakers to try to iron differences.

The official Twitter page of the Kentucky Democratic Party said, “While Senate Republicans made cuts to teachers’ retirement, per-pupil funding and school programs, they put in language to fund charter schools.”

But proponents of the legislation, the Kentucky Charter School Association, tweeted on Wednesday, “Thanks to the KY Senate for keeping the promise of last year’s session. This is one more step toward high-quality educational options for every student. We look forward to the results of the conference committee, and we are excited to get to work educating KY’s next generation.”

No charter schools have opened since the 2017 General Assembly voted to allow them in Kentucky for the first time, but local school boards are preparing to accept applications from people wanting to start charter schools. Officials have said charter schools aren’t expected to open earlier than the 2019-20 school year.

Kentucky’s education system is already inadequately funded, said Perry Papka, director of policy and research for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

“It’s hard to get to a point in which charters would be successful additions to the public school system when we are not adequately funding the system as it is now,” he told the Herald-Leader.

Several education groups and officials said that they were still reviewing the Senate proposal, including the Kentucky Department of Education.

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

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