LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education is hustling to enact policies on how it will handle charter school applicants in the coming months.

The school board met for its quarterly retreat Friday at Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana, and Cassie Blausey, Jefferson County Public Schools’ newly hired director of school choice, said the district is on a strict timeline to put together its plan to solicit and evaluate applications for public charter schools and oversee successful applicants.

Once this year’s legislative session ends April 13 and lawmakers decide how charter schools will be funded, Blausey says she expects applications to start rolling in.

She noted that funding language for charters was inserted in the current budget during last year’s legislative session, when the General Assembly passed charter schools legislation into law, but that will expire July 1 once the next budget takes effect. Charter schools would be funded by the state through the same per-pupil formula as traditional public schools.

Blausey recommended requesting proposals from potential charter school operators on April 16, starting a 60-day evaluation process that includes reviewing applications, interviewing applicants, holding public hearings on finalists and ultimately deciding whether applications should be approved or denied.

Requesting proposals would also give the district a chance to ask for additional information on what services would be offered at the school. With the ethnic diversity of students at JCPS, Blausey said that could include ensuring that potential charter schools can bridge language barriers, “especially if they’re stating in their application that they intend to recruit from that community.”

“I think that would be a fundamental piece,” she said.

Blausey said she hoped to have draft copies of the request for proposals and a first set of policies on the district’s vision and function as an authorizer, the application process and performance benchmarks for charter schools by Jan. 31 for the board’s review.

The second round of charter school policies would be available to the board March 1 and focus on contracting, monitoring, transparency requirements, renewal and revocation of charter licenses, and closing troubled schools.

Those policies would be approved by March 13 and April 24, respectively, according to a timeline presented by Blausey Friday.

The first charter schools wouldn’t be operating in Jefferson County until the 2019-20 school year and the application process would begin Jan. 1 in subsequent years under that timeline.

But Stephanie Horne, a school board member who represents District 3, said the quick pace of drafting and approving the policies concerned her.

“Why are we doing this in such a small time frame?” she said.

Others said without action now, JCPS and the board would be at the mercy of applicants. Rather than a single deadline, the board would need to decide on individual applications 60 days after it receives each one.

“I know it's a short time frame, but in order for us to have a voice, we have to get some of these things done,” said Diane Porter, chairwoman of the school board.

After reviewing how other states like Georgia and Louisiana handle charter school applications and taking a closer look at the process established in state law and regulations, Blausey said she wants the General Assembly to give authorizers more time to evaluate applicants, preferably 90 days rather than 60.

It’s a subject she’s starting to discuss with the Kentucky Department of Education, she said.

“It’s all very preliminary right now,” Blausey told WDRB News. “We’re hoping to start branching out to other interest groups, other districts because this will impact them. It will impact the mayor’s office if they’re interested in authorizing.”

State law gives the Louisville mayor authority to approve charter school contracts.

The extra 30 days also would give JCPS and the board adequate time for a more robust application and review process, she said.

“Essentially what we need to ensure as authorizers is that any charter school that is authorized is going to be successful, and so this, the additional 90 days would make sure that our process is as rigorous as it needs to be, as it can be to ensure that only the quality applicants are making it to the board,” Blausey said.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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