Charter Schools

State Legislators Want to Repeal Charter School Law Before Any Charter Schools Have Opened

Officials tasked with setting up charter school rules are imposing onerous regulations instead.



A group of eight Democratic assembly members in Kentucky have submitted a bill to repeal the state's charter school law, H.B. 520. The law was passed last March, and no charter schools have actually opened yet.

The effort is unlikely to succeed, given that Democrats control neither legislative chamber and given that the governor who signed the bill, Republican Matt Bevin is still in office.

Nevertheless, opponents of charter schools have had other opportunities to stymie school choice in Kentucky. Not only has no charter school opened in the state yet, but the application process hasn't even started. Instead, the government has been mired in the process of formulating the regulations under which the schools will be created and operated.

That quagmire was not built into the legislation.

According to Joel Adams, executive director of the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Association, the contract currently being drafted "grants broad approval and intervention powers to authorizers"—that is, to local school districts. This "undermines charter autonomy and creates opportunities for antagonistic authorizers to administratively abuse charter schools while avoiding accountability for the damage," he explained in a September letter to the Kentucky Charter Schools Advisory Council.

The current version of the application to form a charter school is 55 pages long and "still in the administrative review process." Adams thinks it includes too many questions, "many of which are redundant when and if they are relevant, serve to confuse applicants, complicate and lengthen applications, and burden applicants with the responsibility of detailing items that are in no way relevant to the quality or viability of their applications."

The law itself doesn't actually require the state come up with a uniform application.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has also criticized the draft regulations, while noting that a preliminary analysis of the underlying law found Kentucky had the potential to "rank within the top tier of charter school laws in the nation." Lisa Grover, one of the group's senior directors, says the draft documents stray "far from the statutory requirements in the law."

The Kentucky Board of Education says it expects the first charter schools to open in the fall. We'll see.

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