It’s clear that yesterday’s tie vote that prevented including charter schools in Kentucky’s Race to the Top (RTTT) application was mostly about fear of losing already signed agreements with local school districts rather than a true determination of potential support for charter schools in Kentucky.
The Herald-Leader’s report on the vote in the Senate Education Committee makes that fairly clear, though it omits some additional supporting comments made during the committee meeting.
For example, I attended yesterday’s committee meeting. Senator Gerald A. Neal said during the discussion, “I’m not one who is ‘knee-jerk’ opposed to charters. In fact, I find, uh, it can under certain circumstances offer some interesting opportunities.”
WAVE 3 News quoted Neal as later saying, “Let’s come back with a separate bill and let’s look at what Senator Westwood has to offer here. Let’s vet it properly and raise all the necessary questions and let it rise or fall on its own merits.”
Most significantly, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says charters should be explored further. It is clear that a number of members of the Senate Education Committee, including some like Senator Neal, agree.
Thus, as the Herald-Leader article also points out, “The book on charter schools still might not be closed.” For the sake of our children, I certainly hope it isn’t.
Anyway, let’s also hope the omission of charters in our RTTT application doesn’t doom its chances in Washington.
There are plenty of somewhat vaguely described discretionary points floating around in the RTTT scoring plan. I don’t think anyone really knows exactly how those points will really be awarded. This could allow things to shake out differently from what some expect.
I think it may ultimately depend upon how earnest and aggressive a state’s overall application looks to Washington’s peer review teams. Kentucky’s failure to put charters in our application might not look to good to President Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, both of whom have come out very strongly in favor of charter schools in the past year.
In fact, our very wide consensus of agreement between the school districts and the teachers’ union might work against us, as well. We have agreement. But, the resulting product is watered down in consequence.
Other states are not getting that level of agreement for their plans, but the reason probably is that their plans are more aggressive. What will Washington finally decide? Who knows?