State senator doesn’t see ‘appetite’ among lawmakers for charter schools funding

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Kentucky Senate chamber (photo by Daderot [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons)
Kentucky Senate chamber (photo by Daderot [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons)

Kentucky’s Department of Education may face an uphill battle with its plan to lobby the legislature for a charter schools funding mechanism during next year’s session.

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said Wednesday he doesn’t think there’s much interest among lawmakers to divert state funding to charter schools.

“I really don’t see that happening in my opinion,” Wilson said, speaking to regional school district superintendents at the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative.

During the meeting, Wilson briefed superintendents on his priorities for the upcoming legislative session and took their questions. Lawmakers won’t be considering a new state budget during the session, which begins Jan. 8.

Asked if he anticipates legislation that would allow current per-pupil funding to follow students to charter schools, Wilson said he doesn’t see that happening.

“I don’t have an appetite for doing that,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of us that don’t have an appetite for doing that.”

That conflicts with a priority included in the department’s legislative agenda, which the Kentucky Board of Education approved Thursday.

The priority states the department will pursue “a funding mechanism to permit federal, state and applicable local public education funding to follow children to the public charter school of their parents’ choosing.”

Kentucky’s legislature voted in charter schools last year, but never created a permanent funding mechanism for the schools, which are considered public schools. Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis previously told the Daily News he supports a mechanism that would allow funding to follow students to a charter school.

“Some folks, I believe, may mistakenly believe that public school funding belongs to school districts. I believe public school funding – and the law supports me on this – is for kids,” he said last month.

In an interview, Wilson said he doesn’t see an interest in opening the budget in a nonbudget year, even if legislation proposed diverting existing public education dollars to new charter schools.

“I still think that’s opening the budget in my opinion because you’ve already budgeted that money,” he said. “In order to divert it, I think you’d have to open the budget.”

Asked if other lawmakers see things the same way, Wilson said that “it just seems to be the temperature of the legislature at this point.”

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Written by Aaron Mudd. Cross-posted from the
Bowling Green Daily News via the Kentucky Press News Service.

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