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Brigitte Blom: Debate is not about charter schools, but how to close Ky’s persistent achievement gaps

The Prichard Committee has not been a proponent nor an opponent of public charter schools. We believe that is the wrong question. Rather, the question we ask is: How do we close longstanding and persistent achievement gaps in our state?

When analyzing the research on charter school effectiveness, The Center for Research on Student Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University is still the gold standard. Their research shows clear evidence to support charter schools as a tool in closing achievement gaps for historically marginalized students, particularly in urban areas. CREDO found that the typical student in an urban charter school receives the equivalent of 40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading.

Brigitte Blom

Further, CREDO’s research outlines important components to ensuring strong legislation, including high levels of transparency, oversight, and accountability. As the public charter sector has evolved in other states, it’s clear that local collaboration between the charter and the public school district where students reside is important. I lay out the parameters for a high-performing charter sector in this op-ed with John King, former United States Secretary of Education: Set high standards for Kentucky charter schools, July 2017.

Research shows there are also some components of charter sectors that have potentially negative impacts on student outcomes. They include: The creation and management of charter schools by for-profit entities and virtual charter schools. We are opposed to those allowances in any Kentucky charter bill.

The Committee believes strongly that Kentucky’s law must have the clear goal of closing gaps in student achievement and that Kentucky charter schools should be required to meet the same standards of rigor regarding teaching, learning, and accountability to which all public schools across the state are held.

Funding for charter schools should not diminish the resources currently available to school districts to educate and increase achievement for all students. Any proposal must guarantee that schools and districts remain adequately and equitably funded according to Kentucky law as outlined in Rose v. Council for Better Education.

In reviewing HB9, we ask legislators to do the following:

1. Require public charter schools to make free breakfasts and free lunches available to students who qualify for federal free breakfasts and free lunches and reduced-price lunches.

2. Require that postsecondary authorizers are Kentucky public or private postsecondary institutions only.

3. Require charter school contracts to include provisions to revoke or not renew based on measures of adequate education progress, poor fiscal management, or violation of law – in addition to health and safety violations.

4. Remove the inclusion of Education Opportunity Accounts from House Bill 9.

The continued inclusion of Education Opportunity Accounts would lead us to oppose HB 9 in its entirety. To date, no comprehensive, unbiased research exists to support EOAs as a wise use of state investment to improve overall education outcomes. Further, private schools are not held accountable for education progress as the public system is.

As one of very few states left without charter schools, Kentucky is in an excellent position to learn from the experiences of other states and incorporate into legislation what has worked to ensure quality in other states. With the amendments requested above, HB 9 does that. It is crucial that House Bill 9 serves to close identified achievement gaps and increases Kentucky’s education outcomes. The amendments we recommend will help assure Kentuckians the charter sector is operating with those priorities as the goal.

The Prichard Committee does not believe public charter schools are necessary in Kentucky to continue to improve education outcomes and close persistent achievement gaps. However, as a tool in the toolbox, a strong and effective charter school may be able to significantly increase student academic success – and begin to close achievement gaps. Therefore, we do not oppose the concept and urge policy-maker focus on ensuring well-regulated and fully accountable charter schools.

Brigitte Blow is president & CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

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  1. Roger J Auge says:

    Prichard Committee is correct that Charter Schools is not the answer to
    education in Kentucky. Education is the responsibility of a combination of families, schools, churches, and peers in Kentucky and every other state. Here in Kentucky Charter Schools are a way to drain the public system, which needs improvement but is not bad. Thanks to the Prichard Committee.

  2. J says:

    Charter schools are all about politics – paying off Republican campaign donors who operate charter schools AND destroying public education to get rid of teachers and school administrators who don’t support Republicans.

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