News release: Bluegrass Institute asks state Senate to make mayors, universities and the CPE authorizers of charter schools
For Immediate Release: Monday, March 6, 2017
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation enabling the creation of charter schools in the commonwealth – a school-choice option currently available to families in 43 other states and the District of Columbia.
Legislators voted 56-39 to approve Rep. John “Bam” Carney’s House Bill 520, which allows the creation of charter schools statewide but limits authorization – and much of the control of – charters in most districts to local school boards.
An amendment passed in Friday’s hearing of the bill by the House Education Committee would allow the mayors of Metro Louisville and Lexington to serve as authorizers.
The bill now moves over to the Senate for its consideration.
“We would encourage the Senate to strengthen this bill by allowing mayors in other cities, universities and colleges with accredited schools of education and the Council on Postsecondary Education to also serve as authorizers – or to, at the very least, include mayors of some of the growing cities in the authorization process,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.
“The fact that there are local superintendents and boards of education that expressed hostility toward the concept of charter schools before this year’s legislative session even began – and long before Rep. Carney’s bill was even introduced – speaks strongly to the fact that charter-school applicants are unlikely to get a fair hearing or support from these anti-choice zealots,” Waters said.
For instance, the Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education on Dec. 19 – two full weeks before the legislative session began – passed a resolution unanimously opposing charter schools.
Charter schools are innovative public schools designed by educators, parents or civic leaders, which, in exchange for freedom from many of the stifling regulations and red tape hampering teaching in traditional public schools, pledge in their charters to perform at a higher academic level.
Nationwide, high-performing charter schools are helping close achievement and graduation gaps by offering a real public-education alternative to parents and students who cannot afford to pay private-school tuition or move closer to a better school.
Yet this option likely will not be available in districts like Elizabethtown Independent unless additional authorizers are permitted.
“It’s illogical to believe that a school board so ideologically opposed to the very idea of charter schools in an in-your-face manner is going to acquiesce and not only allow charters but oversee them in a supportive manner that gives them a fair shot of success,” Waters said.
Both Elizabethtown Independent and neighboring Hardin County school districts face serious gaps related to their performance with minorities. Charter schools are helping close such gaps across the nation.
We believe the following information about what’s happening in Hardin County and Elizabethtown Independent school districts bolsters our case for additional authorizers to ensure charter-school applications are fairly considered:
* Despite receiving $16.7 million in funding to educate 2,400 students during the 2014-15 school year – a 44-percent increase in real dollars from the 2006-07 school year – the state’s K-PREP scores indicate less than 12 percent of Elizabethtown’s black elementary school students were proficient in math during the 2015-16 school year.
* The whopping 42-percent gap in math proficiency between black and white elementary school students (incidentally, white students’ 54-percent proficiency rate isn’t anything to send home on the bus, either) is much larger than even the statewide 24-percent gap.
* Considering less than 60 percent of white high schoolers in Elizabethtown Independent and fewer than 50 percent in Hardin County schools are demonstrating proficiency in math, white families need options, too.
* Even with a current nonresident student agreement between the two districts, which allows parents to enroll their children in a neighboring district, there’s not much of a real choice as both districts struggle with large white minus black achievement gaps and dire academic performance by minority students.
Nationwide, charter schools are proving a valuable tool in helping struggling students make often-dramatic progress in not only closing the white minus black achievement gap but also in academically surpassing their peers in traditional public schools.
Opponents of this form of parental school choice often point to the performance only of first-year charter-school students in claiming that charters don’t excel.
However, given that the U.S. Department of Education in its examination of quality charter schools noted that many students enter these schools “performing far below grade level” and “are from neighborhoods and families with scant resources,” it’s not surprising that that students who have only spent a year in charter schools remain notably behind.
The research shows: these new students simply haven’t been in the charter school long enough to benefit.
Carefully gathered data by Stanford University’s Center for Research and Education Outcomes (CREDO) reveals:
* By the time students spend two years in charter schools, they move ahead of their traditional public-school counterparts by an equivalent of several weeks of learning in both reading and math.
* Even more remarkable, nationwide, on average, by the time students spend four or more years in charters, they are out in front of their traditional public-school counterparts. In math, the charter students have about an equivalent of 43 extra days of learning in math and 50 additional days in reading.
* In Louisiana’s above-average charter system, by the time students spend four or five years in a charter school, they generally outperform their traditional public-school peers by about 180 days – the equivalent of a full extra year of schooling – in both reading and math.
* Students who spend four years in New York City’s outstanding charter system received the benefit of an additional 216 extra days of learning in math.
“Considering the remarkable gains being made in charters schools nationwide – particularly with at-risk students – the state Senate should strengthen House Bill 520 by adding at least one other type of authorizer in districts like Elizabethtown, which have been openly hostile to even the concept of charters,” Waters said.
“Adding authorizers will increase the likelihood of more – and better – charter schools by encouraging organizations with proven track records when it comes to creating and operating charter schools to apply while lessening the likelihood that local school districts will be able to stifle the creation and blossoming of these innovative public schools,” he added.
For more information, please contact Jim Waters at jwaters@ freedomkentucky.com, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).