Thursday, April 01, 2010

Charters pass Kentucky Senate committee

A Senate committee passed a charter school bill (or at least a bill that had a charter school provision in it) early this afternoon and the full Senate was expected to pass it before it adjourned today. The reason, of course, was that the failure to pass an earlier piece of legislation has potentially cost the state over $100 million in federal education grants.

Only two states received "Race to the Top" grants in the first round of grant awards, Delaware and Tennessee. Delaware's score was 454.6 and Tennessee's was 444.2. Delaware received $500 million and Tennessee received $100 million. Kentucky's score was 418.8. Had it not given up the 32.6 points by refusing to pass charter legislation, it's score would have been 451.4, second only to Delaware's score.

But since so many lawmakers listened to the teachers unions, who lobbied against charters, the state got nothing.

The passage by the Senate committee of the bill with unanimous Republican support means that Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R-Lexington) changed her vote. She was the deciding vote against charters earlier in the session. That should mean that the full Senate will pass the bill.

In the discussion of the bill in committee Sen. Tim Shaughnessy (D-Louisville) complained that lawmakers didn't have enough time to fully vet the issue:
“I was prepared to take the position that I'm open to this — just not today,” Shaughnessy said. “There is absolutely no way can I vote for such a … sea change in the public education strategy of this state with so little serious thought as to the ramifications and the consequences of what we could be under.”
Well, excuse me, but whose fault is that? When I asked another senator on the committee why she didn't vote for the bill earlier in the session, I heard this same excuse. Precisely which hole have these lawmakers had their head stuck in over the last few years? The issue of charter schools has been on the nation's educational agenda for plenty of time for everyone to have seriously thought about it.

If you are a lawmaker sitting on a state education committee and you haven't thought seriously about charter schools, then you probably need to find another line of work. If you're going to be in a decision-making position for state education issues, then you need to have thought about this issue and if you haven't, you have no one to blame but yourself.

So now let's see what the House does.

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