Charter schools not part of Ky.’s Race to Top

On December 23, 2009 the Herald-Leader reported under the title above that Kentucky’s application for ‘Race To The Top’ funding from the federal government would not include the introduction of charter schools in Kentucky.

We see several problems with the article.

For one thing, if the Herald-Leader got it right, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday isn’t well informed on Kentuckians’ opinion about charter schools. The Herald-Leader writes, “Holliday added that he’s not sure there is widespread support for charter schools.”

We have two public opinion polls that say different. One was conducted for the Bluegrass Institute by staff at Western Kentucky University. Another was recently conducted by the Friedman Foundation with support from the Bluegrass Institute. Both surveys found that Kentuckians definitely want more parent choice and that there is interest in charter schools here.

The 2007 “School Choice Survey” from Dr. Larry Caillouet and his Western Kentucky University team (Caillouet, Larry, “School Choice Survey,” Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Bowling Green, Kentucky, April 30, 2007) asked this question:

“Charter schools are a form of school choice in which schools are run by the principal, teachers and parents without the regulation of teachers unions and state education departments. Do you feel charter schools would be good for Kentucky education?” Here’s how Kentuckians responded:

The Friedman survey uncovered similar reactions.

I guess Commissioner Holliday isn’t reading us as carefully as he needs to. If he can come up with some scientifically conducted surveys to counter ours, we’d love to see them.

There’s another problem of a technical nature with the Herald-Leader’s article. It gets our name wrong. We are NOT the Bluegrass CENTER for Public Policy Solutions. We remain – as we have from our inception six years ago – the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions.

We contacted the Herald-Leader before Christmas with a request to correct the error. When I checked a few minutes ago, the original error remained in the web version.

At this point, both a correction and an in print and on line apology would be appreciated.

I hope the newspaper did a better job getting the rest of the article correct.


  1. Dick

    Thanks for your posting. Nationally, the PDK/Gallup poll is very close to your Bluegrass poll in that there is support for charter schools, however, a majority of respondents did not think charter schools were public schools.

    As to your comment that I was not reading the survey data, I am very aware of the public support for charter schools but also know that many who respond do not fully understand charter schools.

    The KY RTTT application does not have charter schools in the application due to the lack of support from many legislators, teacher groups, superintendent groups, etc. Also, there was not adequate time for the final application deadline of Jan 19 to get legislation passed and even if we had gotten the legislation passed, we would not have been able to get LEA support for the RTTT application. We made a strategic decision due to lack of time, support and probability of losing more points due to lack of LEA signed MOUs on the RTTT application as the reasons behind not putting charter in the application. We do believe there will be significant discussion about charter schools during the session and if KY is not funded in Phase I of RTTT then the charter issue could certainly be revisited for our application for Phase II RTTT.

    P.S. I read you blogs daily and thanks for keeping education as an important agenda item.

    Terry Holliday
    Commissioner of Education

  2. Richard Innes says:

    Commissioner Holliday,

    Thank you for further explaining your comments about charter schools to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Also, thanks for letting us know you regularly read the Bluegrass Policy Blog.

    While we still have a long way to go in educating the public about charter schools, our opinion polls attempted to compensate for that shortcoming by explaining charters before asking specific questions. Will you help us with this education process?

    I’m convinced charters could be a great help in Kentucky, especially in places like Louisville, where chronic under-performing schools still exist despite 20 years of KERA. We’re under no illusion that charters are a “silver bullet.” But we believe they could help catapult our commonwealth to the next level of education reform.

    Also, thanks for mentioning the PDK/Gallup poll results on charters. It’s reassuring to have nationwide confirmation that the Bluegrass Institute polls reflected a concerted attempt to conduct unbiased polls and that the results do indeed reflect public sentiments here in Kentucky.

    Thanks, as well, for letting our readers know that your comments to the Herald-Leader were based mostly on comments from legislators, teachers and superintendents instead of a wide public sample. It appears many Kentucky legislators currently are responding only to vocal special interest groups that don't mirror overall public opinion. We believe you, on the other hand, will – as your top priority – advocate for what’s best for Kentucky students and their futures.

    Hopefully, our readers will note this situation and let their legislators know that many Kentuckians do appear ready to try charter schools.