I previously reported that Senate Bill 211, which would create a limited charter school program in Kentucky, passed its first hurdle in the Kentucky Senate’s Education Committee yesterday. In a 7 to 4 vote, the committee moved the bill to the full Kentucky Senate for further discussion and action.
While CN|2’s Don Weber provided a quick overview of the bill yesterday, I though Sen. Mike Wilson’s comments about the bill deserved full coverage. So, here a video with all of Sen. Wilson’s comments following the action in the committee yesterday.
Those testifying in favor of the bill yesterday included Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, President of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Dave Adkisson, and the Kentucky Youth Advocates’ executive director, Terry Brooks.
These proponents pointed out that Kentucky’s 41 Persistently Low-Achieving Schools have now been in the turn around program for several years, but performance issues remain a problem in a number of those schools. While allowing charter schools might not be a cure all, it would expand the options available to try and provide a better education to students trapped in these Persistently Low-Achieving Schools.
Opposition to SB-211 came from Dr. Bob Rodosky, speaking for the Jefferson County Board of Education and Jefferson County Education Association head Brent McKim.
During his disappointing presentation, Rodosky cherry picked findings from a research group called CREDO from Stanford University, trying to claim that the group’s latest study on charter schools shows they don’t work well. His testimony was incomplete, overlooking some of the dramatic findings that CREDO is starting to issue about charter school performance.
For one thing, CREDO reports consistently that once students spend enough time in charters to benefit, then across the country those charter students do outperform their traditional public school counterparts. I have written extensively about this major finding in the past, such as here here, here, here, and here, just to cite some of my more recent posts.
Basically, charters cannot instantly overcome the poor educations most students bring to them from public school. It takes time to work that magic. However, once students spend about three years in a charter, they do outperform traditional school students, and this is happening across the nation. And in report after report since 2009, CREDO repeats this same finding.
Rodosky also ducked the fact that the quality of charter laws also matters. Recent CREDO research shows that in states where better charter school laws are in place, charters offer a great deal.
One very recently updated example of a high performing charter state, mentioned by proponents in the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday, is Louisiana. CREDO just completed a new study there last summer, and here is what their press release says:
“…the typical student in a Louisiana charter school gains more learning in a year than his or her district school peer, amounting to about fifty more days of learning in reading and sixty-five more days of learning in math.”
The study also focused in on New Orleans’ charters, finding:
“…nearly 80 percent of the public school students in the city attend charter schools, constituting 69 percent of the state’s charter school population. The results for the typical student in a New Orleans charter were even more pronounced than the state results, equating to more than four months of additional learning in reading and five months greater progress in math.”
So, properly executed charter school programs can work real wonders for students, and that is happening in Southern states and Southern cities.
Why, then, would Rodosky, the statistical person at the Jefferson County Public School System, not be interested in at least trying this powerful tool in his very lowest-performing schools, especially since Senate Bill 211 makes it clear that his local school district would award all charters and maintain control over the charters it creates? Why do some Kentucky’s educators continue to deny our children this alternative education tool when charters are producing such outstanding results in places like Louisiana? It just makes no sense.