SENATOR MAX WISE: THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARTERS
While many bills passed through both legislative chambers
this week, it was House Bill (HB) 520, the legislation to create
an opportunity for public charter schools in Kentucky, that
dominated the news. I know that many of you, especially my
districtwide public school educators, may be disappointed in my
vote to support public charter schools in Kentucky. While it is
inevitable that constituents will never agree on every vote I take,
I prayerfully consider all views and guidance in the job that I do
as your state senator. Please allow this op/ed to provide you with
information on what a charter school is, the rationale for making
the decision that I did, and how public charters will be established
I will also be publishing a follow-up letter in the coming days
detailing the entire funding process that the state will use when
it comes to Kentucky public charter schools. I hope this will
better educate you on the issue and provide more insights into
the truth about charter schools. I have championed for being an
honest and transparent legislator, so my apologies for the details
and length for this communication. I must also give credit to
Representative Addia Wuchner for statistics and written details
found within this letter that she provided.
As a state legislator, a public school graduate, and as a parent
of children currently in the public school system, I have worked
and supported our schools for years. My core fundamental belief
has always been that education is a parent's choice, be it public,
private, Christian, homeschool, etc.
In the past weeks I have seen and received phone calls, texts,
emails, tweets, and Facebook posts featuring discussions about
charter schools in Kentucky. House Bill 520 does not open the
door for private charter school providers to pop up all over the
state and take over the Kentucky public school system. With
HB 520, public charter schools would have to be authorized/
approved by local school boards before implementation or
authorized by the mayors in Jefferson and Fayette counties
(for those counties only). This process gives local control
decision if a county wants to implement a charter school or not.
The argument that public charters pose a threat to our local
public education system is completely inaccurate. 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 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 needs are being met. As the son of a former college
basketball coach, I think competition is a good thing. I have seen
schools in my Senate district raise their educational gains from
“proficient” to “distinguished” because of competition. Maybe,
just maybe, having public charters in our larger urban areas can
help our public schools desire to be more than just the status quo.
Both of my parents are former public school educators. I, like
my wife, am a product of public school education. I have great
respect for all educators and value our traditional public schools.
I am especially proud of the public schools in my own Senate
district. As your Kentucky State Senator, I take very seriously the responsibility and trust the people have placed with me. While
our area public schools are not failing by any means, as a |
Commonwealth, we do have many low and underperforming
public schools, especially in the urban areas. Even though I
represent seven south central Kentucky counties, I cannot have
a blind eye when it comes to our overall statewide public
education. When we fail in the education of one student, we
fail in providing them the building blocks for their future and
our state's future. This failure has detrimental social and
economic ramifications for families, communities, and the
The Kentucky General Assembly has a responsibility to provide
additional educational options for those students who are in
public schools with scores that repeatedly demonstrate
deficiencies. As legislators, 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
Opponents of HB 520 worry that public charter schools will
draw money away from traditional public schools. Charter
schools 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. Neither school districts nor
public charter schools have a right to public education funding.
Funds are allocated for students’ education, and those funds
should follow students to whatever public school they attend.
As stated in my opening paragraph, I will be providing a follow-up
letter on the exact methodology and formula for public charter
The only way for a public charter school to be authorized locally
is by local school board authorization. I want to repeat that
again...public charter schools would have to be authorized by
your LOCAL school boards, meaning that it is up to our local
school boards to decide if their county wants to start a charter
school or not thus eliminating a plethora of charter schools
statewide. I have a hard time seeing any rural local school
boards wanting to create & authorize a public charter school in
their local communities. As authorizers, those boards would
have the responsibility of providing oversight for public charter
schools. House Bill 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 shown to have a positive impact
on student performance across the country. However, there are
also horrific stories of charter schools that have failed miserably.
Charters’ 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.
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 do
not have the opportunity to homeschool, especially in Jefferson &
Fayette counties. It is my hope that House Bill 520 will provide |
that choice and a chance for those students to succeed.
In closing, I want to commend the bold leadership of the bill
sponsor, my friend and colleague, Representative Bam Carney.
In my election as State Senator in 2014, not a single elected"
official on the state level came out in public support of me as a
candidate except for one, Representative Bam Carney. Bam
believed in me and did what he thought was best for this area
in supporting me for public office, even though it was unpopular
among his political colleagues. Bam has invested and spent over
twenty years as a public school educator. Bam's best interest is
in the kids and it always will be. This is not about lobbyist pressure,
Governor pressure, etc., when it comes to Bam. It is unfair seeing
the amount of hateful comments that have been hurled his way in
the wake of sponsoring this particular bill. I know it comes with
the territory as an elected official...we volunteered to run for these
jobs, we were not drafted.
Will HB520 be the silver bullet to fix the failing schools in our
state...no. Could this legislation end up being a failure in the Commonwealth...possibly. There is no way to predict what any
legislative outcome will be when first passed. In my three years
in public office, I have yet to find the “perfect” bill. In fact, I will
never find a “perfect” bill as long as I am in office because all bills
have flaws. I hope that in five to ten years our inner city and our
rural schools are performing better than before and that proper
credit can be given to an educator that took a bold step, one that
may have been unpopular at the time but was needed. I hope
that then Bam Carney is not given the cold shoulder but rather
the pat on the back that he justly deserves.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Senator.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any
other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181
Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
The Adair County Retired Teachers Association will have its
quarterly meeting on Tuesday, March 21, 10amCT, at the Health
Department, 801 Westlake Drive. Our meetings are for all Adair
County retired teachers and those who reside in Adair County
regardless of the county or counties where you were employed.
We will be welcoming new retirees at this meeting. Our speaker
will be Destiny Greer, Diabetes Educator and Living Well Coordinator
for Adair County.
Also, please bring a canned food item for our Food Pantry or
JOY Ministries. We welcome all retired teachers to our meetings
and look forward to great fellowship together!
Ellen Zornes, President, Adair County Retired Teachers Association