Charter Schools: What's New in Kentucky?
In April 2022, the General Assembly passed HB 9, setting charter school funding and deadlines for pilot charters in Jefferson County and northern Kentucky. In August, our blog series summarized those rules and identified a few puzzles.
There have been some new developments, so here’s a quick briefing on updated regulations, Northern Kentucky University’s board decision not to take on a charter role, the lack of Jefferson County applications, new charter litigation, and the arrival of a Madison County charter school application.
What’s in the new regulations?
In October, the Kentucky Board of Education amended state charter school regulations. Although KBE regulations can change operating rules for state initiatives, these amendments simply added what House Bill 9 required and deletes some terms that HB 9 removed from state law.
Emergency versions of the amended regulations are in effect now. KBE adopted the emergency versions to provide clarity for charter applications to be filed early in 2023. Permanent versions will move more slowly through a legislative review process.
How will Northern Kentucky authorize a charter school?
The Northern Kentucky University board will not become a charter school authorizer. HB 9 gave them 1/2/2023 deadline to opt into that role, but the board’s December 2022 meeting, no director made a motion to take it up.
Concerns listed in an NKU press release included “lack of start-up funding available to the authorizer,” the approval timeline, legal costs and “the financial viability of a small-scale charter schools”operation.
Since NKU bowed out, a charter must be authorized in Kenton or Campbell County by 7/1/2024, approved by a collective of 22 school board members: two each from Bellevue, Campbell, Covington, Dayton, Erlanger-Elsmere, Fort Thomas, Kenton, Ludlow, Newport, and Southgate.
When will Jefferson County authorize a charter?
In January, no one applied to form a Jefferson County charter school. 1/23/23 was the JCPS board’s deadline to apply for a 2024-25 opening date. House Bill 9 calls for that board to approve a charter by 7/1/23, but approval seems impossible without any applications.
Earlier, Dr. Veda Pendleton had filed a notice of intent for a “LYCEE of Louisville” charter, listing its mission, governing board, and enrollment plan, but she did not file a full application by 1/23/23.
How will litigation affect authorization?
In December, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that “education opportunity accounts” violated state constitutional rules. Though not about charter schools, the ruling may set precedent for K-12 funding cases.
In January, the Council for Better Education, joined by Jefferson and Dayton school boards, filed suit saying that charter funding violates Kentucky’s constitutio.
Litigation like the new charter case will take months for initial motions, followed by hearings, briefings, a ruling, and appeals. The case may or may not be resolved in time for charter schools to open with clear financial resources in the summer/fall of 2024.
Will Madison County be the first Kentucky authorizer?
In January, Madison County did receive a charter application. Gus LaFontaine, co-founder of LaFontaine Preparatory School and LaFontaine Early Learning Center, said his planned school will lower class sizes and raise teacher pay.
Madison County has more than 7,500 students, so the board cannot block the application by refusing a memorandum of agreement. Instead, the board must act on the application within 60 days. If the board finds deficiencies, the applicant can ask for another 60 days to fix those problems.
Taking all these developments together, Kentucky may open one charter school in 2024 in Madison County. That said a second charter is now looking unlikely until at least 2025.
For our fuller analysis, download “Charter Schools: Some Kentucky Questions and Answers.” We’ve compiled our May 2022 series and this February 2023 update to get the basics of Kentucky rules all in one document. To put the whole series in context, here’s a central point from Brigitte Blom’s post starting of this coverage:
“The Prichard Committee does not support or oppose charter schools for themselves. Our goal is excellence with equity in public education. In our 2014 report, we highlighted evidence that some charter schools have successfully contributed to moving forward on that agenda, as well as noting evidence that many charter schools do not help much and some moved students in the wrong direction. As Kentucky is positioned to open some charter schools in the near future, our focus remains the same: we want excellence and equity for all Kentucky students, and we’ll press for charter schools to be part of achieving that goal. We plan to be serious about quality and serious about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging –for Kentucky public charter schools along with all the other public schools that serve our students and build our shared future.”