Dear Boone Friends,
During the 2017 Legislative Session there has been much debate about House Bill 520 and creating an opportunity for public charter schools in Kentucky. Recently, there has been a flurry of texts, emails, tweets and social media posts featuring three-line sound bites on charter schools in Kentucky. I would like to take this opportunity to provide some clarity on this matter.
After 12 years of serving on the House Education Committee, and much study and reflection on student outcome data, I supported HB 520, because I believe it will expand educational options for parents and students across Kentucky. I have worked and supported our public schools for years, and but it has always been my belief that education is a parent’s choice, be it public, private, Christian, parochial, homeschool, etc.
So let’s take a closer look at what HB520 actually does and does not do… First of all, the proposed legislation, HB 520, does not open the door for a multitude of private charter school providers to rush into our Commonwealth and take over the Kentucky public school system. As per the legislation’s language, this conversation is about public charter schools. With HB 520, public charter schools would be authorized by local public school boards, or as proposed by an amendment to HB 520, mayors in Jefferson and Fayette counties may also serve as authorizing authorities in those counties only.
The argument that public charters pose a threat to our public education system is simply not true. Public charter schools will be a part of our public education system. The only institutions that should feel threatened by public charter schools are those that have repeatedly failed students. Public charter schools will provide the parents of those students with additional public school options. Parents will not remove their children from schools where their educational needs are being met.
I have great respect for educators and value our traditional public schools. I am especially proud of our Boone County Schools. As your State Representative, I take very seriously the responsibility and trust the people of the 66th District have placed with me.
But, while having a keen understanding of my own district, I cannot have a narrow “district-myopic” view when it comes to public education. When we fail in the education of one student, we fail in providing them the foundation for their future and their future economic well-being. This failure has a long-reaching social and economic effect for families, communities, and the Commonwealth.
We have a responsibility to provide additional educational options for those students who are in public schools with scores that repeatedly demonstrate deficiencies. We have a responsibility to the students whose future successes depend on their educational experiences, to their parents who entrust their children to public education, and to the taxpayers who fund our public schools.
Opponents of HB 520 worry public charter schools would draw money away from traditional public schools. Charter schools, if authorized by a local public school board would be funded with public dollars on a per-pupil basis much like traditional public schools are funded. Specified funding would “follow” students as a transfer from a traditional public school to a public charter school. Public education dollars would continue to be disbursed to school districts based on the number of students they serve. Funds are allocated for students’ education, and those funds should follow students to whatever public school they attend.
In Northern Kentucky, public charter schools would have to be authorized by local school boards. As authorizers, those boards would have the responsibility of providing oversight for public charter schools. HB 520 holds public charter schools to a much higher standard of accountability than traditional public schools in Kentucky. Not only would public charter schools be required to participate in the state assessment and accountability system, they would also be required to meet the academic performance standards agreed upon in their charters. Charter schools that fail to meet or make significant progress toward meeting those standards would be closed by local school board authorizers.
Public charter schools have been demonstrated across the country their greatest academic gains have been with low-income students and students of color; the very students Kentucky’s traditional public schools have struggled most to reach. The addition of public charter schools in Kentucky through HB 520 provides education leaders and educators across the state with an additional tool for meeting the needs of those students.
Given the performance of low-income students across the Commonwealth, that additional help is sorely needed. According to a study on the student performance gap by the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS):
• 75% of students in grades 4-6 performing in the bottom third of students on Kentucky state assessment (K-PREP) qualified for free and reduced-price lunches (FRL).
• 56% of all students qualifying for FRL performed in the bottom third in reading or mathematics.
• 66% of all African-American students performed in the bottom third in reading or mathematics.
While we often celebrate our education success, we have to honestly ask ourselves what about the student in schools found with deficiencies and those who preform in the bottom third in reading and mathematics?
What about those students in schools we have extended more funding and interventions but we get the same lagging performance results?
Of course, public Charter schools are not necessarily the right choice for all students or even all districts, however, we have an obligation to provide more choices to those who need them. We need to help the 30% whose parents cannot afford private schools or don’t have the opportunity to homeschool, when their current and only educational choice/school has continued to fail their children, even after providing interventions and additional funding.
As Chair of House Committee on Health of Health and Family Services, I am acutely aware of the other factors that affect a child’s learning experience; fractured home lives, unimaginable tragic situations that are the day to day for many of our Kentucky children. For struggling learners especially, all our government safety nets, and public education and interventions may not provide what many of them need most of all…a nurturing and loving home. I know for many of those students it may be, perhaps the nurturing voice or the strong inspirational voice of a coach that raises them up to reach beyond their circumstances to grab everything within their educational environment, so they can reach their potential. In some regions of the state, a public charter can make a difference for those children.
For those in my Boone County School District, who have contacted me concerned about HB520, I know we may not always agree but thank you for your inquires. I hope this clears some of the concerns and confusion on the matter especially in Boone County.
We have outstanding and dedicated educators and while I won’t say Boone is perfect, we have set the bar high in Boone. I have had the opportunity to visit our schools, I follow our student outcomes and their achievements. Again, public charters are public schools and “only” the local district school boards could authorize them and should that occur the local board would have oversight.
Kentuckians need all available tools to help these students. And while public charter schools are not necessarily the right choice for all students or even all districts, we have an obligation to provide more choices to those who need them. We need to help the students whose parents cannot afford private schools or don’t have the opportunity to homeschool. It is my hope that House Bill 520 will provide that choice and a chance for those students to succeed.
I take very seriously each and every Legislative decisions that comes before us. It is critical that we explore the educational evidence and the possibilities, stretching our vision beyond how we have always done things. It is critical, especially for every Kentucky child who’s future inherently rest upon the decisions we make. The children of Kentucky maybe 25% of the population but they are 100%of the future. Failing them, is not an option. Proving each of them the opportunity to succeed is the imperative.
Representative Addia Kathryn Wuchner
Serving the 66th House District
#kyga17 #ParentChoice #KYEducation