Kentucky finds itself in the midst of a monumental change to its cities’ education and a decision that could be detrimental to the already shaky foundation of primary and secondary schools in the Bluegrass. Governor Matt Bevin signed a new bill that will allow charter schools in Kentucky. The bill contains a few underlying aspects that are rather questionable. With this new law in place, it is important to question the necessity and longevity of charter schools in Kentucky. Is there truly a need for charter schools, when the same resources being directed towards them could be instead placed into the halls of the underperforming schools?
Kentucky’s two major cities, Louisville and Lexington, both have their own thriving school systems. One particular system in Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools, has done an exemplary job at providing students with extracurricular activities and quality teachers. Their magnet schools give kids the chance to learn and grow outside of core curriculum and they meet state standards annually. Theatre senior Emily Villescas is a product of this. Villecas attended Kammerer Middle School and Ballard High School. According to Villescas, a lot of her classroom success is attributed to how much her teachers cared.
“The teachers had very good relationships with their students, nothing was tense or stressful,” Villescas said. “I even had one teacher once take me to an art exhibit because I couldn’t afford to go by myself away from school. It still means a lot to me that they did that, and it inspires me to help (students) at UK.”
Why replace institutions where opportunities like these are available? On paper, charters seem to be the next best thing to guarantee the success of students. However, it has not been proven through consistent statistics that charter schools’ effectiveness is greater than that of a public school with proper resources.
Bruno V. Manno is Senior Advisor for K – 12 Education Reform with the Walton Family Foundation. In an article for The School Superintendent Association, Manno lists three elements that guarantee a successful charter school: vigilant sponsors, transparency with parents and a core curriculum with end of year/semester assessments. Strangely enough, these three things are equivalent to what makes any school work, public or private. Even though most charter schools claim to prioritize low-income students, the selection process is known to skim through the available list of kids. Who is to say that charter schools who want a specific reputation will not simply hand their applications out to those who uphold their standards? HB 520’s loose wording allows for too many loopholes. It even present its own escape clause for charter schools to ask for exceptions to the law.
The redirection of funds to underperforming schools and proper attention paid to the deeper issues affecting public schools and their students are better ways of changing the system. There are ways to ensure children get a great education if the community around them makes the effort. Public schools need quality teachers and resources for their underprivileged children. Change is developed from the inside, not by creating new schools with the same students to start the vicious cycle of failure all over again.
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