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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Parents, students, and some of Kentucky's top political leaders joined together for a charter school summit Thursday. It launches a new group called Kentucky Charter Schools Association.
The event at the Muhammad Ali Center begins another attempt to get charter school legislation passed through the Kentucky legislature. Kentucky Rep. Brad Montell, a District 58 Republican said, " There and some really good charter schools out there and in some cases they are nothing short of phenomenal." KY U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said, "I'm for charter schools. I'm for choice....it's your money you should be able to take it where you want and I think competition will make us better."
A charter school is a public school that operates privately and has more freedom to follow its own rules to deliver better student achievement. The Kentucky General Assembly has rejected the idea in each of the last three legislative sessions. Some key voices are on the other side of the debate. Jefferson County Public School Superintendent Donna Hargens is one of them. Hargens declined to sit on Thursday's panel. She said, "In Jefferson County we want to be the choice. We believe we can provide choices for our parents." Hargens points to the district's magnet schools as educational options and being named a district of innovation, which is a charter like distinction.
Charter schools will steer millions of dollars away from traditional school districts. Democratic lawmakers have sided with superintendents and teachers unions across the state. Last year they blocked the bill from even getting to a hearing in the State House.
A survey by Harper Polling found 72 percent of Kentuckians would support a law to allow schools that perform poorly year after year to reorga as public charter schools. Teachers at these schools have more ability to craft and change curriculum. Some charter schools have chosen longer schools day and school years. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO, Nina Rees said, " What's unique and special now in Kentucky is you can ride on the experiences we've had in other states and build a law. "
The group knows its challenges. Rep. Montell said last year more charter schools closed for lacking student performance than any other year. He said, " That's a black eye for charter schools but on the other hand we see many that are performing well and it's those charters that we have to emulate." Jefferson County Teachers Association President, Brent McKim said, " We've outpaced the surrounding states that do have charter schools so it would be a step back to go to what they have that is not working as well as the educational reforms that we have."
This year supporters have rallied their efforts early. It's six months before the latest bill will even be introduced in the legislature. They're hoping to gain enough public support to make the 4th time the charm. There are more than 6-thousand public charter schools nationwide. Kentucky is one of only eight states in the nation without charter school legislation.