Kentucky’s Department of Education will lobby the legislature to fund charter schools, hold back third graders who don’t meet reading standards and take the power to hire school principals away from school-based decision making councils.
Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis presented the priorities to the Kentucky Board of Education on Wednesday. The board voted unanimously to sign on to the agenda.
State lawmakers passed a charter schools bill in 2017, but never created a permanent funding mechanism for the independently managed but publicly funded schools.
Lewis said that public education dollars should move from traditional public schools to charters based on where parents choose to send their kids.
“We are proposing that if a parent makes that choice then the applicable public funding ought to follow that kid to the public school of their parents’ choosing,” Lewis said.
Since the upcoming legislative session isn’t a budget-writing year, any bill that deals with funding will require a three-fifths majority in order to pass out of the legislature.
That high threshold would make it harder for lawmakers to pass a charter schools funding bill this year unless they’re able to redirect funds from what’s already been set aside for traditional public schools in the current budget.
The education department’s priorities also include a policy to hold back — or “retain” — students who don’t meet reading standards in third grade.
Lewis said the recommendation would focus on ways to help students who are falling behind.
“Attention goes immediately to retention threshold. And what’s missed is that the emphasis of the program is not retention. The emphasis of the program is on intervention,” he said.
Lewis said the proposal would include exceptions for students with disabilities, English language learners and students who have been held back before.
Sixteen states and Washington D.C. have policies to hold back students who don’t meet reading standards before they head to fourth grade.
Lewis proposed giving local superintendents the power to hire school principals, a power currently delegated to school based decision making councils — local boards comprised of teachers and parents.
He also advocated for giving local school districts more power to hire and fire teachers.
“We believe we have to increase district and school leaders’ flexibility to in cases where you have teachers who are either unwilling or unable to be effective in the classroom, that we have to give them greater flexibility to make changes,” Lewis said.
The legislative session begins on Jan 8.