Is this our version of democracy in Frankfort?!

Because these “snake oil salesmen” with Americans for Prosperity, funded by dark money from the Koch Brothers and Devos & Co., who purchased a frightening number of your Kentucky State legislators, just won’t quit trying to sell the Commonwealth on HB520, the charter schools bill, I guess we get to play a fun round of Point and Counter point. Their money won this first round of this battle, but I guess they are feeling antsy as the Commonwealth comes to realize what came to pass…literally.

For the record, I do not represent any “special interest” and there is no union behind me. The money behind me is in the form of my own gas money and personal time that I donated to our public school children in March. I am simply a well read public school parent & advocate who cares a whole awful lot. I guess it’s like that line from The Lorax, ““Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

So I fight on. I can appreciate it if you are tired of my ranting about what has become my cause. I appreciate your patience as I wear my advocacy on my facebook “shirt sleeve”. Just ignore this if you have grown weary of this battle I am waging. If you would like to share this with others in facebook land, please do. It is marked as public and the public needs to know what has happened. The more Kentuckians that understand this complex problem, the better off we will all be in Kentucky when we are given the chance to fix this for our kids.

In the meantime, I will not stop fighting, I won’t.

Here we go….

1. Charter schools have not been needed in the Commonwealth, which is why we have never had them. In the 20 years that other states have mistakenly turned to charter schools to be some magic bullet, we created our own brand of education reform called the Kentucky Education Reform Act. 27 years after KERA was enacted, we still have important and critical work to do to eliminate the achievement gap, but charter schools are NOT the answer to solve the societal concerns that manifest themselves in our public schools. We need comprehensive and high quality preschool education to never allow the gap to open at all. We need trauma services, social services, and support systems for these children, not a different building, different teachers, and no “continuity of care”, where trusted community support structures will be placed at risk.

2. When some children leave those buildings, most are left behind, and that funding from those schools is lost. That means fewer teachers and resources for those already disadvantaged schools. Kentucky’s schools have been defunded 13% since 2008. They are doing more with less, because that is what good teachers do. This is the reality, folks. I have served many hours in our schools buildings and in school based decision making council meetings. I have made those hard budgetary decisions as a result of defunding and Fayette County’s most recent boundary redistricting. We are still feeling the effects! I cannot fathom what the net result will be from a continual and unpredictable “market disturbance” that will become the norm under continual charter school creation. The weak schools will become even weaker, while still serving 90% of the kids. But a loss of 10% of students in a building doesn’t translate into a loss of only 10% of resources. In our Kentucky school funding model, it doesn’t work that way. But since this legislation wasn’t written by Kentucky legislators or Legislative Research Commission staffers, nor were budgetary projections and impact studies done, no one knows what the net result will be for these buildings and the children left behind. They could have researched this before proposing this legislation, but they didn’t. We could have done more research and learned from the mistakes from 43 other states, but we didn’t do that either. The amendments that Senator Gerald Neal (D-Jefferson) presented on the Senate floor would have helped us protect those kids who need the most protections, but the KY GOP would not even allow the discussion of the amendments, much less allow a floor vote on these protections. Is this our version of democracy in Frankfort?!

3. Don’t let them fool you. Based on how this legislation is written, there is NO requirement that these charter schools serve disadvantaged populations. It is “hoped” that they will… their words, not mine. Although the “opponents”, of which I am one, respectfully requested the the legislators to guarantee these protections for our most vulnerable and under-served populations, the KY GOP legislators REFUSED to add these protections into the bill. MAY and SHALL are incredibly important words and mean two very different things when the legislation “rubber meets the road”, as they say.

4. What these folks conveniently fail to mention is that this terrible legislation does nothing to protect your locally elected school board’s authority. They keep leaving out the fact that the Kentucky School Board, that is appointed by the Governor, has overriding authority to approve a charter school that your local board denies. Governor Matt Bevin will appoint 6 pro-charter members of the 11 members of the next Board that will be seated in 2018. Convenient for Bevin, huh?

5. They also fail to mention that many school districts in this Commonwealth are funded by massive amounts of local tax dollars. So when Bevin’s newly appointed pro-charter Kentucky School Board starts rubber stamping these charter schools, against your local board’s authority….this is called TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.

6. Regardless of what they claim, this legislation is written so poorly, there will be much gaming of student assignments to these charter schools. Whether it is by failing to translate applications into various languages, advertising their schools in certain ways or to certain areas, this will happen. Bad players always find a way to win in a game where profit taking is on the table. And what is missed here is the end game, when they begin kicking out the ones they don’t want because their test scores are undesirable, or their parents cause too many problems, or “those children” are behavior problems they no longer want to deal with. How it looks on the admission end is only the first play in this play book. If you don’t believe me, do the research yourself and see what 43 other states have experienced. Kentucky’s public schools must accept and educate everyone and follow state standards. How convenient that charter schools do not have to do either. This is not a level playing field with which to compare schools. They know it, and they will use it as the next play in the play book to continue to destroy public education and “validate” their charter schools model, who don’t play the game by the same rules or even on the same field.

7. Yes, the teachers must be qualified, but that requirement was NOT in the original bill brought to the Kentucky House chamber. It was added only after understandable outcries from folks who knew virtually nothing about charter schools but knew well enough that only qualified teachers should be teaching children in the Commonwealth. If the legislation is intentionally complex and not written in Kentucky, only the things that are obviously egregious will get fixed quickly. Again, part of the new Frankfort legislative play book. Draft the legislation behind closed doors, with no bipartisan dialogue, and shove it down the throat of both chambers within hours, using questionable legislative rules. Again, is this our version of democracy in Frankfort?!

8. Contracting with for-profit companies to buy text books and professional development, is NOTHING like using public tax dollars to build a parallel system of schools in this Commonwealth. Shame on them for thinking that Kentuckians can not see the differentiation in a procurement process and a alternative system of school governance.

9. The charter schools systems in Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee are a mess with unacceptable amounts of fraud and inefficiency. The Ohio state legislature just recently considered legislation to try and “fix” the fact that tens of millions of public tax payers dollars have been fraudulently allocated to and squandered by charter schools. Once these schools are forced to close due to financial mismanagement, etc., the legislature was forced to come up with a mechanism to return local tax dollars to local district coffers. This is simply one example of fraud and misuse. Since when do we model anything we do in Kentucky on Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee? I will let parents in those states take care of those kids. I will keep my “eye on the prize” and concern myself with what is in the best interest of this Commonwealth and our kids.

10. State legislators were inundated with calls, texts, tweets, e-mails asking them to vote NO on HB520. These messages were not from “special interest opponents”, they were from concerned parents, grandparents, teachers, school board members, and citizens throughout this Commonwealth. They weren’t calling to protect the status quo, they were calling to protect children and the public schools that are the cornerstone of our society. They ignored you.

Americans for Prosperity, Devos & Co., and the public school privatization movement that they represent, are the “special interests” that want your tax dollars to feed hedge funds and line dark money pockets. Don’t believe me? Just google “FBI investigates charter schools”.

The votes they cast were not principled, they were cast either out of fear of retribution from the Governor, the KY GOP, or out of obligation to the money who funded the campaigns to get them elected.

Kentucky, we are better than this. We are not for sale. Our children are not for sale. This is not school choice, this is charter school carnage. We must stop them and get to work on that achievement gap with solutions we know will make that dream a reality for ALL Kentucky kids.

Lucy Waterbury
Lexington Parent

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