Gov. Matt Bevin, joined by legislators, education officials and community leaders, ceremonially signed House Bill 520 in the State Capitol Rotunda. Enacted during the regular session of the 2017 General Assembly, HB 520 enables the creation of public charter schools for the first time in the Commonwealth.
“We owe it to the generations yet to come to provide them with an equal opportunity for a quality education,” said Gov. Bevin. “I’m grateful to the men and women who are working to educate our young people; and the best and brightest among them are begging for some change to a bureaucratic system. We simply want to give choices to parents and to students — to give every child an opportunity. That’s what this bill is about.”
The legislation makes Kentucky the 44th state in the nation with charter schools, which are tuition-free, open enrollment public schools. While the Commonwealth’s charter schools will be granted greater flexibility and autonomy than traditional public schools, they will also experience greater performance accountability than traditional public schools.
“Charter schools in Kentucky mean more education opportunities for our youth who happen to live in low-performing districts,” said Rep. Bam Carney, the chief sponsor of the charter school bill. “Every single student deserves the best shot at a quality education that will prepare them for a lifetime, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to support this important measure. Kentucky’s students are bright, and with an education to match, the entire Commonwealth’s future will shine.”
HB 520 outlines how charter schools — termed achievement academies — are to be authorized: by local boards of education or by the mayors of Louisville and Lexington. If a charter school application is denied, it can then go through an appeals process with the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE).
Since the bill was passed in March, regulations have been promulgated on student applications, charter applications, appeals to the authorizer accountability, the process for converting existing public schools into public charter schools, and appeals to KBE.
“Across the country, specialized forms of education are accelerating learning for children who are often the hardest to reach in a traditional school framework,” said Hal Heiner, Secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. “I applaud Kentucky’s legislature for passing House Bill 520, a monumental step in providing parents a different, innovative choice in public education for the specific learning needs of their child.”
According to HB 520, public charter schools are required to participate in the state assessment and accountability system, and required to meet the academic performance standards agreed upon in their charters. Charter schools that fail to meet of make significant progress toward meeting those standards would be closed by their board authorizers.