LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Despite financial uncertainty for charter schools at the state level, the Jefferson County Board of Education is moving ahead in drafting its policies as a charter authorizer.

Cassie Blausey, Jefferson County Public Schools’ director of school choice, said during a Tuesday work session that even without state funding, groups hoping to open charter schools can still submit applications with operating expenses likely covered through grants and private funding.

Blausey has said she would like JCPS to have charter school policies in place by the end of this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to end April 13.

Some lawmakers have balked at funding charter schools beyond the current budget, which provides state funding on the same per-pupil basis as traditional public schools, when the state is considering cuts to elements of the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky formula, which provides financial support for public schools throughout Kentucky.

Blausey told school board members that without a state funding formula in place, it will be even more important for the board to determine whether organizations can afford to operate.

That fiscal uncertainty, she said, may be concerning for some groups looking to open a charter school in Jefferson County.

“Those larger organizations have to approach Kentucky with a little bit of caution because the funding piece isn’t quite there and usually they look at things like established per-pupil funding, but I also don’t think that it has an impact on our processes because ultimately we have charter school legislation on the books, and so if we get an application, we have to process it as required by statute,” Blausey told WDRB News.

“I think it plays a part in our review of the application to determine whether or not they will be able to function financially, but as far as our processes go it doesn’t change anything. Now whether or not that discourages certain applicants, we’ll see.”

State law also requires authorizers to accept or deny charter school applications within 60 days of receipt.

Blausey recommended a process that would require organizers to submit applications during a set period, and acting JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said that’s something the district’s lobbyists have asked lawmakers to amend in the law.

Pollio said every legislator he’s spoken with on the subject expressed no concerns about the change, but “changing a bill is not easy at this point.” The General Assembly passed House Bill 520, which made Kentucky the 44th state to offer charter schools, last year.

“I’m not saying it’s going to happen because they’ve got a lot on their plate up there right now, but we are pushing it every time that we meet with legislators, so we’re hoping to see that,” Pollio told the board. “But there’s no guarantee that will happen.”

Taking applications on a rolling basis, which would require decisions within 60 days of individual submissions, could make reviewing and approving applications difficult and create confusion for those in the community hoping to provide feedback, Blausey said.

Applications received through a request for proposals would also give district time to request additional information from groups looking to open charters and set a single 60-day review period, she said.

“The legislative change would be very helpful,” she said after the work session. “I think it would increase the quality of the systems that we’re putting into place, but ultimately we’ll have to deal with it one way or another.”

Still, Blausey said the district will be prepared to handle its duties as a charter school authorizer with or without changes by the General Assembly. Other school districts and authorizers -- Louisville's and Lexington's mayors also have authority to approve charter applications under HB 520 -- will likely look at how JCPS handles charter schools as they craft their own policies, she said.

“We advocate for the legislative change, but if the legislative change doesn’t happen, we’ve got a process in place to deal with that,” Blausey said.

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

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