Kentucky’s 2019 legislative session is still several days away but we already know that dangerous ideas are coming our way.
The latest is a promise from State Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis to ask the lawmakers for a “funding mechanism” or process for charter schools.
Charter schools were authorized in 2017 but no school district in the state has been willing to share its state or local funds for that purpose.
At the same time, the General Assembly has yet to establish a new funding source for charter schools.
With Gov. Matt Bevin hoping to get reelected next year, he is running out of time to keep his campaign promise to bring charter schools to Kentucky.
We believe that’s why he arranged for the previous education commissioner to be replaced with Dr. Lewis, his handpicked choice and a disciple of charter schools.
To make sure, the governor appointed several new members to the state school board. With those appointees as a majority, Lewis was hired without a national search.
In keeping with the conservative approach of the Republican majority in the legislature, no leader has even mentioned finding new revenue for creating and operating charter schools.
Instead, those funds would have to come from existing appropriations to the state’s public school districts.
That wrong-headed approach would have already underfunded schools be further weakened by giving up part of their state funds for charter schools.
Lewis followed the GOP script by emphasizing that his proposal for a funding mechanism does not mean he intends to ask the legislators for extra money.
He says he will suggest that per-student funds currently allocated to public district follow a student to a charter school if their parents choose.
Lewis has consistently supported charter schools as a means of raising achievement levels and closing achievement gaps, especially among children of color and those from low income families.
However, statewide public opinion polling has shown that most Kentuckians are opposed to using existing public school funds for that purpose.
In our view, Dr. Lewis and the General Assembly should make sure that public schools are adequately funded before any more experimenting with the notion of state-funded charter schools.