Manny Caulk, superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools, is inviting Gov.-elect Matt Bevin to visit the district to see the efforts being made to raise student achievement before Bevin decides that public charter schools are the answer.
After winning last week's election, Bevin suggested public charter schools as a solution for "failing schools" in Fayette and Jefferson counties.
But Caulk, who said he had experience in other districts with creating and managing charter schools, said in an interview, "I don't think charters are the answer here in Fayette County."
A public charter school is a publicly funded school. Charter schools in Georgia, for example, are not governed by a local board of education but by an autonomous nonprofit board of directors, and are relieved from certain state and local regulations in exchange for a higher level of accountability. Charter schools may provide programs not available in traditional public schools.
Legislation that would allow charter schools in Kentucky failed during the 2015 General Assembly.
Caulk said he had overseen or created charter schools in Chicago, Louisiana and Philadelphia, but only after other strategies were exhausted. He said he needed Bevin's support to try those strategies.
Caulk, who became Fayette County superintendent in August, said he hoped Bevin would first support high quality pre-kindergarten classes for schools in high poverty areas, because that's missing for many.
And he said he hoped Bevin would support giving superintendents the authority to implement an extended school day and extended school year for certain schools.
Superintendents in urban districts in Kentucky don't have those tools and others to fix the problem, Caulk said.
"Fund that, and then hold me accountable," he said.
Under state and community pressure, the district has embarked on an intensive plan to reduce the number of "novice learners," as opposed to those who are classified as proficient or higher. District officials are trying to close a significant achievement gap between disabled, poor and minority students and others.
"Kindergarten readiness would mitigate the effect of poverty and close the gap," said Caulk.
"I would extend an invitation to Gov.-elect Bevin to visit Fayette County Public Schools during his first 100 days to learn about the work we are doing in the district and our schools to increase outcomes for all students," said Caulk. "Also, I can share with him the tools that urban superintendents need in Kentucky to intervene more quickly in schools."
In response, Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said "Bevin's vision is to promote education policy that empowers parents and local educators to best serve the needs of our students."
"He looks forward to bringing all viewpoints to the table to assess where public dollars will be best spent to help our kids obtain their highest aspirations when they graduate," Ditto said. "He believes strongly that parents should have the freedom to choose where their children go to school and will work to build consensus through the cabinet, legislators and education leaders to make that a reality."