Kentucky is one of the few states left in the U.S. that does not permit charter schools. This gives it an opportunity to create a law focused on quality, transparency and accountability. In a recent post in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Marty Solomon
begs the state not to allow charter schools by perpetuating myths about the charter sector (we
debunk some of these on our Red Pen Page). Besides his many inaccuracies, Solomon makes sweeping declarations about what charter schools “are,” without taking into account that charter laws are incredibly different from state to state. For instance, Solomon writes:
Charter schools are essentially private schools, run by private operators, under private rules, with private teachers, operating with far less accountability than public schools, and are exempt from all state statutes and administrative regulations. The state would have absolutely no control over them.
Factual errors and claims of privatization aside, Solomon’s assertions about accountability and flexibility are unfounded. Because charter school laws vary by state, it isn’t possible to argue that
all charter schools are exempt from statutes or that
all charter schools operate without accountability. Some states, like South Carolina, have taken steps to ensure a high bar for accountability, including adopting authorizer standards, establishing a strong renewal standard, instituting a default closure provision, and clarifying the charter school approval and appeals process. Should Kentucky adopt a charter school law, it would be wise to take into account these same policy recommendations in an effort to prioritize quality and accountability. Additionally, the breadth of policies from which charter schools are exempt varies from state to state. In Kansas, for instance, charter applications must identify the rules and regulations from which waiver is sought, and it is then up to the local school board to either grant or deny the flexibility. That said, allowing charter schools to operate outside the parameters of education policies is precisely what makes them so innovative and successful. Of course, that flexibility must be paired with accountability—if charter schools aren’t successful, they should be closed down and their authorizers should be held accountable for the lack of performance. At the end of the day, Kentucky truly does have an awesome opportunity to create a quality charter school law from scratch, which could give kids across the Bluegrass State even more educational opportunities.
Valentina Payne joined Bellwether Education Partners in 2021 as chief of staff to Andy Rotherham on the External Relations team. Prior to Bellwether, she spent seven years at brightbeam, where she most recently served as its chief growth officer, overseeing operations, finance, fundraising, and strategic growth of the organization.