Education

TV ad campaign encourages Kentucky lawmakers to take up charter schools legislation

FRANKFORT — A recently formed private group is running television ads across much of the state, touting the need for charter schools legislation in the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly.

However, the chairman of the state House Education Committee says the TV campaign won't affect his decision on whether to pursue the issue.

The new group, Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education, launched its ads last week to coincide with the opening of the legislative session. The organization is spending about $100,000 on the campaign, a group leader says. It's believed to be the first widespread TV promotion of charter schools ever in Kentucky, one of nine states that don't allow such schools.

Hal Heiner, a former Louisville mayoral candidate, said Kentuckians Advocating Reform mainly is conducting an "education campaign" at this point, without backing any legislation.

"Since we don't have charter schools in Kentucky, very few people know what a public charter school is," Heiner said. "If they're done well, they really work. We're trying to help get the discussion going."

Heiner said his group is interested in meeting with legislators to promote charter schools and the need for "really great legislation" to establish them in Kentucky.

Heiner said his group is not allied with the free-market Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, which also has been pushing for charter schools in Kentucky.

Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education has a Web site, www.chartersinkentucky.com, where visitors can read information about charters, see videos and make financial contributions to the campaign.

Charter schools are public schools which are granted charters — special permits — allowing them to operate outside many education regulations; for example, they may offer more hours of instruction. Almost 5,000 charter schools are operating nationwide.

Legislation authorizing charters has been introduced in the General Assembly several times over the past few years without coming close to passage. The Republican-controlled Senate passed charter bills in 2010 and 2011, only to see them die in the House.

The only charter measure filed so far this year is House Bill 77, sponsored by state Rep. Brad Montel, R-Shelbyville. Montel has tried for without success for several years to get a hearing for his bill in House.

Heiner said that while Montel has made improvements in his bill, it still needs work, and Kentuckians Advocating for Reform in Education isn't supporting it now.

HB 77 is pending in the House Education Committee. The committee chairman, Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said Tuesday that he'll decide soon whether to take up HB 77, but he said the current TV ads won't affect that decision. Rollins said he he fears charter schools would siphon dollars away from traditional public schools.

"If you have a 1,250-student high school and take 250 away to start a charter school ... I think it dilutes your focus and weakens your overall effort to educate all the students," he said.

Rollins contended that a better choice would be his own House Bill 37, which would allow the designation of school "districts of innovation," which could be excluded from some education regulations.

Heiner said his interest in charter schools grew out of his unsuccessful 2010 Republican campaign for mayor of Louisville, when many voters asked him what he would do about education. He said he knew nothing about charter schools then, but has become convinced that properly organized charters would offer promise for Kentucky students.

Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education formed over the past six months, according to Heiner. Other leaders in the group include Bill Schreck, a former Louisville city official, and Wayne D. Lewis, an assistant education professor at the University of Kentucky who is a charter school advocate.

Heiner contends that charter schools in Kentucky initially should be focused on children who aren't succeeding in regular public schools, and should be located in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

FRANKFORT — A recently formed private group is running television ads across much of the state, touting the need for charter-schools legislation in the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly.

However, the chairman of the state House Education Committee says the TV campaign won't affect his decision on whether to pursue the issue.

The new group, Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education, launched its ads last week to coincide with the opening of the legislative session. The organization is spending about $100,000 on the campaign, a group leader says. It's believed to be the first widespread TV promotion of charter schools ever in Kentucky, one of nine states that doesn't allow such schools.

Hal Heiner, a former Louisville mayoral candidate, said Kentuckians Advocating Reform is mainly conducting an "education campaign" at this point, without backing any legislation.

"Since we don't have charter schools in Kentucky, very few people know what a public charter school is," Heiner said. "If they're done well, they really work. We're trying to help get the discussion going."

Heiner said his group is interested in meeting with legislators to promote charter schools and the need for "really great legislation" to establish them in Kentucky.

Heiner said his group is not allied with the free-market Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, which also has been pushing for charter schools in Kentucky.

Charter schools are public schools that are granted charters — special permits — allowing them to operate outside many education regulations; for example, they may offer more hours of instruction. Almost 5,000 charter schools are operating nationwide.

Legislation authorizing charters has been introduced in the General Assembly several times over the past few years without coming close to passage. The Republican-controlled Senate passed charter bills in 2010 and 2011, only to see them die in the House.

The only charter measure filed so far this year is House Bill 77, sponsored by state Rep. Brad Montel, R-Shelbyville. Montel has tried for without success for several years to get a hearing for his bill in House. Heiner said that while Montel has made improvements in his bill, it still needs work, and Kentuckians Advocating for Reform in Education isn't supporting it now.

HB 77 is pending in the House Education Committee. The committee chairman, Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said Tuesday that he'll decide soon whether to take up HB 77, but he said the TV ads won't affect that decision. Rollins said he fears charter schools would siphon dollars away from traditional public schools.

Heiner said his interest in charter schools grew out of his unsuccessful 2010 Republican campaign for mayor of Louisville, when many voters asked him what he would do about education. He said he knew nothing about charter schools then, but has become convinced that properly organized charters would offer promise for Kentucky students.

Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education formed over the last six months, Heiner said. Other leaders in the group include Bill Schreck, a former Louisville city official, and Wayne D. Lewis, an assistant professor of education at the University of Kentucky who is a charter school advocate.

Heiner said that charter schools in Kentucky initially should be focused on children who aren't succeeding in regular public schools, and should be located in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

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