Op-Ed

Step-by-step, let’s review Matt Bevin’s plan to undermine public education in Kentucky

Governor Bevin is determined to undermine public education in Kentucky. His quest is to establish charter schools in our state, which can make charter school bosses rich but rob public schools of their funding. Here is his cleverly conceived strategy being put in place with the anticipation of charter schools becoming approved in the 2020 legislature.

Step one: Charter school legislation being proposed would require charter school bosses to obtain approval to start a school from the local public school board. If the school board would reject an inadequate application, then charter school bosses could appeal to the state Board of Education which could override the decision and approve the application. So, the first step in Bevin’s strategy was to dismiss the entire previous state Board of Education which had the objective of improving public schools and replace it with charter school advocates. Therefore, deficient charter school applications that a school board might find totally lacking, could be overridden by the Bevin-packed, charter-friendly, Board of Education.

Step two: The Department of Education should be headed by someone whose mission is to make our public schools the best they can be. But what is tragic is that instead, Bevin summarily dismissed a seasoned educator who headed the department with a person whose clear objective is to flood Kentucky with charter schools that would strip public school funds and transfer them to charter school bosses who could make staggering profits at taxpayer expense and weaken the ability of public schools to provide quality education.

If charter school legislation passes and even one charter school boss starts a charter school in Fayette County with 200 children, then the Fayette County public schools would be required to cut its budget by $2.4 million and hand it over to the boss.

Step three:e Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board is entrusted with promulgating regulations for teacher certification and educator preparation. This board decides on what it takes for a teacher to be “qualified.” This is especially important because the proposed charter school legislation requires that charter school teachers be qualified. But it would be difficult for charter bosses to attract qualified teachers because charter schools typically cut costs by offering low salaries and fewer benefits to teachers. So, Gov. Bevin moved Kentucky’s Education Professional Standards Board to the Kentucky Department of Education under the auspices of the Commissioner of Education who is — guess what — an extreme proponent of charter schools. This move will make it easy for the definition of a qualified teacher to be eroded to the point that people who would have been previously considered unqualified teachers be magically qualified so that charter bosses could hire them at low wages to teach our children.

Step four: Bevin’s Kentucky Board of Education wants to make high school graduation more difficult. The strategy is, even after passing all of their required high school classes, to make that still not enough for graduation without passing even new tests. Unquestionably, this would hit the poor and minority children hardest, making it especially difficult for them to graduate. Why would Governor Bevin do this? The reason is to discredit and embarrass public schools in order to claim that charter schools are needed because public schools are doing such a poor job of graduating Kentucky students.

The facts are so blatantly obvious and the statistics and research show that, on average, charter schools are woefully inadequate and trail public school nationally in almost every measure. They are generally money mills for entrepreneurs that want to make a profit at the expense of our children.

Now the plan is laid, and the people required are in place, the onslaught of our public schools is in the crosshairs of the charter school advocates for a takeover and a crippling of our public schools. We must not let it happen. A new governor can clean house and turn this sad picture around.

Marty Solomon is a retired University of Kentucky Professor and can be reached at mbsolomon@aol.com

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