But, charter school bill advances, anyway
The Kentucky Senate’s Education Committee voted on February 5, 2015 on the Senate Bill 8 to create a charter school pilot in Kentucky. During the discussion before the vote, Senator Reginald Thomas (D) Lexington, argued that charter schools are not required. Along the way he said several things that merit discussion, including his comments about what he called the “Fayette County Equity Council.”
For a little background, what is actually the Fayette County Public Schools Equity Council was formed out of a predecessor Equity Task Force in 1999 (not in 1994 as Sen. Thomas stated) to deal with chronic achievement gaps for minority students in Fayette County Schools. After 16 years, the latest KPREP testing reported in the 2014 Fayette County School Report Card shows a solution to the achievement gaps continues to elude the Council and Fayette County Public Schools, as well.
In any event, Sen. Thomas talked about the “Fayette County Equity Council” during his comments on SB-8. He said this council is “independent of the Fayette County Schools.” That’s not correct. The truth is that the Fayette County Public Schools Equity Council is directly supported by the Fayette County School District. In fact, the local board of education has considerable control over who sits on the council. Ten of the 15 board members are directly appointed by members of the Fayette County Board of Education. The other five Equity Council members are in turn selected by those 10 appointed members. Clearly, the Equity Council is unlikely to go against the wishes of the local school board members who appoint the majority of them.
At another point in his presentation, Sen. Thomas talked about how no members of the Equity Council had expressed a desire for charter schools. In fact, the council has never taken up the issue. Given their close relationship to the Fayette County Board of Education, it would be surprising if they had, and such a discussion might be beyond the authority of the Equity Council in any event.
Sen. Thomas’ comments didn’t impress another legislator from the Lexington area. During the committee voting on SB-8, Senator Alice Forgy Kerr (R) Fayette County, explained her “Aye” vote this way:
By the way, SB-8 cleared the Kentucky Senate on February 6, 2015 by a 23 to 12 vote and has now been forwarded to the Kentucky House. This may be the largest majority vote ever enjoyed by a charter school bill in Kentucky and shows sharply growing numbers of Kentuckians are unhappy about the achievement gaps in this state and are increasingly willing to see if charter schools can help to turn this chronic problem around.