Would receive a mix of local and state tax support.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — After years of inaction, charter schools would gain a foothold in Kentucky and receive a permanent funding stream under a bill that passed the State House on Tuesday. .
The bill calling for the initial opening of charter schools was approved by the House by a vote of 51 to 46 after a nearly three-hour debate, the same day the measure barely emerged from a committee of the House.
Twenty-two Republican lawmakers lined up with Democrats to oppose the proposal, but the measure garnered enough support to pass the Senate. Republicans have supermajorities in both houses. There are only a handful of days left to pass the bill in time to ensure lawmakers could veto the promised veto by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
The bill has had a bumpy ride through the House, reflecting the searing status of charter schools in the Bluegrass State. The measure was pulled from a House committee and reassigned to the Education Committee, which underwent some last-minute membership changes ahead of the crucial vote that helped push the bill through committee.
Opponents waged a heated struggle across the House. During the lengthy debate, Democratic Rep. Angie Hatton said, “You can cut the tension in this room with a knife today.”
The Republican-led Kentucky Legislature authorized charter schools in 2017, but none were created because lawmakers failed to provide a permanent funding mechanism.
The new measure would establish a long-term funding method for charter schools. Public charters, like traditional public schools, would receive a mix of local and state tax support.
Opponents of charter schools have said charters would divert funding from traditional public schools.
“In my view, House Bill 9 is a vote against public education,” Republican Rep. Timmy Truett said.
Proponents have described it as a way to give parents more choice in schooling their children.
“It’s another option for our public schools to give parents a choice, to send their children somewhere that the parent thinks is a better option for their child,” Republican Rep. Chad McCoy said.
Another key feature of the measure would require that at least two charter schools be established as pilot projects — one in Louisville and one in northern Kentucky.
“Hopefully if we do a pilot project…it will show the rest of the state that there’s nothing to worry about,” McCoy, the bill’s lead sponsor, said during the court hearing. committee.
“These things are happening all over the country,” McCoy added. “And they’re not going to hurt public schools. Ninety percent of kids still go to traditional public schools.”
The “safeguards” included in the 2017 law to oversee charter schools would remain intact, he said.
The measure has drawn strong pushback from many public education stakeholders. Opponents on Tuesday raised concerns about the oversight and funding of charter schools. Focusing on the funding mechanism, GOP Rep. Steve Riley said the bill would likely face a legal challenge if it becomes law.
“I really don’t want us to resume prosecution,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Lisa Willner criticized the maneuver before the vote — reassigning the bill to another committee and changing the composition of the panel.
“Some bills are supposed to not make it out of committee because they’re not ready yet,” she said. “And for the game that kept getting a ‘yes’ and getting that out of the committee, that’s not good democratic process, that’s not good governance, that’s not transparency.”