Are Charter Schools Good for Estill County?

My husband and I chose Estill County 10 years ago. Our love for the mountains initially drove our decision. But now the strength, love, and energy we feel from this community makes Estill County our forever home. We’ve met many people who are passionate about the success of this community. Their energy, love, commitment, and grit is contagious and sparked a loyalty and excitement in me that I never had for another place I’ve called home.

I believe Estill County will succeed because we are committed to our community. And, I believe public schools are critical for our commitment. They are the backbone of our pride. Our schools prepare our children for their future. Our children will write Estill County’s success story. Teachers and school staff are our partners on the long road to raising our children with the life skills, knowledge, and moral strength they need to succeed and help Estill County succeed. OUr schools bring us together, regardless of our differences, to work toward a common goal. When Estill County students succeed, our community is proud. When a student in Estill County struggles, we all worry and offer support. We rise and fall together.

Despite the many success stories of Estill County Schools, some might wonder if an alternative will help their children get ahead of the rest. But while public schools are free, alternatives cost money and are only available to those who can afford it.

Supporters of charter schools say they offer a better option. Charter schools are taxpayer funded but privately managed, which make them seem like a good fit for those who cannot afford private school but feel the public school does not meet their needs. Laws governing charter schools, such as who can create a charter school, which students charter schools must accept, and what certification teachers require, are different state by state. Since Kentucky is beginning to discuss the possibility of charter schools, we don’t know what rules for Kentucky charter schools will look like.

I knew little about charter schools other than my brother’s experience. He lives in a small town in California with options: public, charter, and private. Unfortunately, California public schools are failing because top students began choosing charter schools, taking tax dollars with them. There aren’t enough charter schools to meet demand so, while some select students based on test performance and interviews, some have begun selecting students through a lottery with strict quota requirements to improve fairness and diversity. If you win a spot, most guarantee placement until graduation. The selection process means it’s unlikely you will ever get accepted to the school after Kindergarten. My nephew didn’t get selected in the lotteries for the charter schools his parents liked so they ended up choosing a private Catholic school. It’s a great school, but my brother’s family is not Catholic. The Catholic school accepted my nephew and, since he’s not Catholic, he and the few other non-Catholics just have to sit out during mass and other Catholic activities. This was the “choice” he was given.

As Kentucky enters the charter school debate, I decided to learn more about how charter schools work, how they will impact our school system, and if I want charter schools to be an option for my children. If we decide charter schools are not right for our community, we need to voice our concerns now. We can’t wait until we have no choice.

  • Some charter schools have no accountability to taxpayers or a local school board. With less oversight, it’s critical for parents to become heavily involved to ensure our children get the education they need.
  • Many charter schools can choose which students to accept. Many accept only the brightest and most capable to help their test scores.
  • Charter schools can be run for profit. If a for-profit school falls short of financial goals, the school can shut down, just like a business. One day your child has a place to go, the next day the doors are locked. If that happens to your school, your child’s life-long classmates and friends must scatter and join a new school.
  • Charter schools are often run by outsiders who do not understand the values and needs of our community. The teachers and administrators at the school may not come from our community or care as much about the success of our community.
  • Charter schools are still experimental and have not been shown to be more successful than public schools. In 44 states over 25 years charter schools have been proven to lead to waste, fraud, and abuse.

After learning more about charter schools I’ve decided I don’t want charter schools in Kentucky. I worry that charter schools will splinter our communities, which need to be built up, not torn down. In a charter school system I don’t think my children will get the educational experience I want for them. I worry about what will happen to teachers and staff who will need to find new jobs as enrollment in our public schools decline. I believe charter schools will tempt some of us to abandon each other in search of a false hope, leaving the rest of our community’s children behind. Instead, I would like to work together to improve our current system.

I chose to move to this community. I fell in love with the mountains and the people. I want the best for all of us. I hope you will work with me to make our imperfect system better, not abandon it for a false hope.

To learn more about charter schools in Kentucky, please visit In February our state legislators will discuss bill HB103. If this bill is signed, charter schools will come into Kentucky and Estill County. I’m going to Frankfort to speak with our representatives to urge them to protect us from charter schools. I hope you take the time to learn about charter schools and let our representatives know what you believe is important to Estill County and your family.

Victoria Stevens