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School districts sue to stop charter school law

The districts were told by the General Assembly they had to authorize charter schools in their local district.

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Two school districts, joined by an organization representing other school districts across the state, have sued to have last year’s charter school bill declared unconstitutional.

Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, and the Dayton Independent school district, joined the Kentucky Council for Better Education in suing the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Board of Education. The suit was filed in Franklin Circuit Court on Tuesday, January 10th.

The CBE was formed in 1984 and brought the lawsuit that culminated in the historic Rose v. CBE ruling on Kentucky's constitutional education obligations. Today, it is a nonprofit corporation whose members include 168 of Kentucky’s 173 public school districts.

The suit claims that HB 9, the bill passed in the 2022 General Assembly, is unconstitutional, and lists a number of reasons the law should be thrown out. The main thrust of the suit is that the Kentucky Constitution forbids “diverting funding intended for the common schools to educational pursuits that are not under the management and control of a board of education elected under Kentucky law.”

The suit goes on to point out other reasons the charter school bill is unconstitutional:

  • The Rose decision mandates a “substantially uniform” school system across the state. HB 9 ignores that mandate.
  • The state constitution expressly forbids using education funding for anything other than the “common schools” system.
  • Multiple other sections of the constitution state that public funds must be used for public purposes, with Section 186 providing that “all funds accruing to the school fund shall be used for the maintenance of the public schools of the Commonwealth, and for no other purpose.”
  • HB 9 diverts monies collected for local public schools to another purpose, which the constitution forbids.
  • HB 9 also mandates that JCPS and the Dayton system be authorizers for charter schools in their districts – but the constitution says that the General Assembly cannot pass laws that “provide for the management of common schools.”
  • Finally, “HB 9 unconstitutionally delegates legislative authority over the essential governmental function of providing education to unaccountable private entities without imposing the safeguards the Supreme Court requires under Sections 2 and 29 of the Constitution.”

After the suit was filed, the commissioner of education, Jason Glass, said that neither the Department of Education nor the state Board of Education will “spend resources” to defend HB 9 in court. In fact, Glass said that he looked forward to the Kentucky Supreme Court “clarifying” the constitutional issues raised by the lawsuit.

The office of AG Daniel Cameron was served with the suit, and will be responsible for defending it in court.

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