For the first time, JCPS crafts guidelines for charter schools - WDRB 41 Louisville News

For the first time, JCPS crafts guidelines for charter schools

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- For the first time ever, Jefferson County Public Schools has released a set of draft guidelines for charter school legislation in Kentucky.

The new Republican majority in Frankfort will almost certainly pass a bill allowing charter schools, and now educators, including JCPS, are trying to influence what those charter schools should look like.

JCPS school board member Linda Duncan is not a fan of charter schools, but as Kentucky’s largest school district, it’s important JCPS officials have a seat at the table.

“So that we don't create something that gives some schools such advantages and other schools disadvantages,” Duncan told WDRB on Thursday.

The JCPS board held a work session about their legislative agenda on Nov. 29. Including a long discussion about charter schools and with the help of Jonathan Lowe, the district’s director of strategy, they came up with these draft guidelines, which says charter schools should:

  • Establish local school districts as the charter authorizers;
  • Permit only independent, non-profit entities to manage charter schools;
  • Create a pilot program, limiting the initial number of charters school that can be authorized;
  • Require compliance with Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records laws;
  • Include protections against financial mismanagement, fraud, and abuse;
  • Require charter school board members to complete the training required of district school board members;
  • Require charter school curricula created using public funds to be publicly available, not proprietary;
  • Require the student demographics (e.g. race, income, educational attainment) be reflective of the district within which the charter school resides;
  • Prorate funding for charter schools when a student leaves prior to the end of a school year; and
  • Incorporate national research- and evidence-based best practices developed through the experiences of states with charter schools.

The school board is expected to vote on the recommendations next week.

The JCPS proposal comes a day after the Kentucky Board of Education issued a similar set of priorities.

“The legislators have to have an idea of what we think a charter bill is,” said board member Rev. Milton Seymour of Louisville.

Charter school advocates are pleased the debate has now shifted from whether to have charter schools to what form they should take.

“We're in a tremendous position to pick the best models in these other states, ones that have just brought in high performing schools,” said Hal Heiner, Kentucky’s Secretary Education and Workforce Development.

Indiana has allowed charter schools since 2002. Community Montessori School in New Albany is one of Indiana's oldest and most successful.

In 15 years, it has grown from around 50 students to 600, with a long waiting list.

Founder Barbara Burke Fondren says it’s important that charter schools be given room to innovate.

“I think that's one of the most important things in crafting a piece of legislation, is allowing schools to think outside the box.”

Related Stories:

Kentucky Board of Education expected to take stance on charter schools

Republican-backed bills would allow charter schools in Louisville, Lexington

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