Kentucky has officially become the 44th state to allow charter schools, after years of steadfast resistance to allowing the publicly funded, but independently operated schools to open.
Gov. Matt Bevin signed the charter school bill on Tuesday, after approval from the state legislature came last week.
The law allows parents, teachers, residents, and non-profits to apply to open charter schools. Local school boards will serve as authorizers, but mayors in the largest cities, Lexington and Louisville, can get permission from the state board of education to become authorizers. Applicants will be able to appeal denials to the state board of education.
The law does not put a limit on the number of charter schools that can operate in the state. And although the bill says that nonprofits can apply to become charter authorizers, the bill’s supporters acknowledged in floor discussions leading up to the bill’s passage that nothing in the legislation bars a charter operator from subcontracting all operations and management to a for-profit company.
Late changes to the bill clarified that charter school teachers must be state-certified.
The bill faced pushback from Democratic legislators, many of whom argued that charter schools will strip already scarce resources from traditional public schools.
The state school boards association also opposed the measure on the grounds that multiple charter school authorizers diluted local control, and that it was also unclear how traditional public schools’ funding will be affected by charter schools. The association also had concerns about the appeals process.
The law passed without a clear funding mechanism. A subsequent measure attached to another bill added language on charter school funding. Charter schools are to be funded in a similar manner to the state’s traditional public schools—on a per-pupil basis. However, they will not receive money for transportation and buildings, according to WVXU.
Attempts to pass a charter school bill had failed in Kentucky in the past. But those efforts were expected to prevail this year now that Republicans are in control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion.
Republican supporters say charter schools provide more schooling options for parents, especially for low-income and black students who are in low-performing schools, increase competition, and help the state close the achievement gap.
With Kentucky’s entry into charter schools, just six states remain without laws allowing the schools, all of them sparsely populated: Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Montana.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.