As we continue to digest the impact of bills passed during the most recent General Assembly, it is becoming more and more obvious that while it was a mixed bag — the benefits seem to mostly outweigh the drawbacks, especially in education.
—The decision to start funding charter schools cannot be logically seen as a positive for public education. It is also contradictory to most political positions when it is seen as using public funds to support private enterprise.
Charter schools will benefit upper middle class families while pulling support from schools and school systems that mostly serve lower income families. Lawmakers say this is about choice, but if it is about choice, it is hardly a choice for everyone.
Kentucky legislators are suggesting the charter bills supported in this session are targeted for two larger metro areas —Louisville and Northern Kentucky —but the impact of this legislation will reach far beyond. And the impact will not be positive for our public school system.
—A continuing problem for Scott County schools is the way Kentucky funds its school systems — based upon student population and attendance. Before the pandemic Scott County struggled under this formula because the funding is based upon a previous year’s student enrollment, and Scott County experienced increases of as many 300 students during some years. In other words, SCS received funding for 300 students less than were actually enrolled, or the school system had less to spend per student than other school systems. The problem grew more difficult during the pandemic when the state elected to use student enrollment from three years ago in its equation, increasing the disparity.
This situation will not be resolved anytime soon. Most Kentucky school systems are stable or declining, so most are benefitting or not suffering from the equation. Scott County is seen as a “rich” community, so any adjustments would be viewed as taking from the poor and giving to the rich. In other words, this is a problem for SCS, but it’s a problem the school system must figure how to manage.
—One bill that has not received much public attention is House Bill 678. Building new schools is an expensive and huge endeavor. Such large projects frequently require many change orders, or adjustments in the original plans. Such change orders are usually tied up in state reviews and authorizations that require time and paperwork, but they are necessary as a check and balance. While the change orders are being reviewed, adjustments must be made that can add weeks or months to a project.
HB 678 allows such projects to continue while the change orders are being reviewed. The checks and balances remain in place, but the project can continue uninterrupted, saving the school system — and the taxpayers — thousands of dollars.
This legislation is an example of a good law that benefits everyone.
—Finally, while we disagree with the charter school legislation, and we wish something could be done to equalize the SEEK funding formula, the truth is public education was a beneficiary from the majority of legislation passed in this session.