Kentucky Governor Signs Bill that Legalizes Charter Schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Charter schools are now legal in Kentucky after Governor Matt Bevin signed a heavily debated charter schools bill into law last week.

Despite much discussion throughout the legislative session, Gov. Bevin signed House Bill 520, which makes Kentucky the 44th state in the U.S. to allow charter schools. Gov. Bevin had made the bill his top priority in the latter part of the legislative session, according to Courier-Journal, part of the USA Today Network. Ultimately passing the Senate 23-15 and the House 53-43, the bill will allow local school districts to authorize an unlimited amount of charter schools, beginning in the 2017-18 school year. However, the first ones in the state are not expected until the 2018-19 school year.

The bill allows for school boards and only the mayors of Louisville and Lexington to approve the charter schools. It was also revised to state that charter-school teachers must be qualified teachers and that students will not be able to attend a charter school across county lines unless a regional charter school is established, reported WDRB, a local news source.

Because charter schools are funded publicly but managed privately, there have been strong opinions both for and against the bill. Advocates for the bill note that charter schools have a less rigid structure, which provides the opportunity for innovation and serves a neglected student population. Meanwhile, opponents believe that the charter schools will take money from underfunded traditional public schools, especially since the bill does not specifically require charter schools to accept underprivileged or neglected students.

Next on the docket is House Bill 471, which would transfer state and federal education funds to cover the costs of charter schools, reported Courier-Journal. While the General Assembly already passed the bill, Gov. Bevin had yet to sign it into law as of last week.