No Charter School Applications in Louisville Despite Legislature’s ‘Urban Academy’ Mandate

Jefferson County, Northern Kentucky were to serve as pilots under last year’s law

Getty Images

Get stories like these delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for The 74 Newsletter

No one applied to open a charter school in Louisville, despite last year’s mandate by the legislature that Jefferson County Public Schools approve a pilot charter by July 1 of this year.

Monday was the deadline for charter school applicants in Jefferson County.

JCPS spokesman Mark Hebert confirmed that no sponsor stepped up to open the “urban academy” envisioned by state lawmakers for Kentucky’s largest city.

“We did everything that was required to make the opportunity available to anyone who was interested in starting a charter school. They just didn’t respond for whatever reason,” Hebert said.

Under legal challenge by Kentucky school districts, the charter school law narrowly passed over Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto last year. It created a funding stream for charter schools in Kentucky and laid out plans for charters in Louisville and Northern Kentucky to serve as pilots.

The law gave Northern Kentucky University the option of becoming the other charter-school authorizer. But the NKU Board of Regents decided last month not to assume that responsibility, shifting the authorizing duty to “a collective of metropolitan local school boards” which the law gives until July 2024 to approve a pilot charter school.

School-choice advocate Gary Houchens, a professor of education administration at Western Kentucky University and a former state school board member, said he’s not surprised no one has applied to open a public charter school under last year’s law. He predicted that Kentucky will have no charter schools as long as the law makes local school districts responsible for authorizing them.

“The way the bill was crafted sets up districts for a lot of headaches and charter school sponsors for a lot of unnecessary challenges,” Houchens told the Lantern, adding he does not blame local districts or charter school sponsors.

“It puts both in a difficult spot. The district is responsible for overseeing a school it doesn’t really want and that will be competing for students. And the charter school should be independent of the district. If Kentucky is serious about charter schools it will have to come back to the drawing board” and develop a different authorizing mechanism, Houchens said.

The Kentucky legislature passed a charter school law in 2017 that was signed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. One charter school application, in Madison County, is pending under the earlier law.

Last year’s law is being challenged in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the Council for Better Education, made up of 168 of Kentucky’s 173 school districts. JCPCS and the Dayton Independent Board of Education are also plaintiffs in the challenge. The lawsuit contends funding would be siphoned from public schools to benefit “unaccountable private entities” in violation of Kentucky’s Constitution.

In Louisville, a notice of intent to open a charter school was filed by education consultant Veda Pendleton but not an application.

What happens next is unclear. “The statute does not provide an outcome in the case there are no applications,” said Toni Konz Tatman of the Kentucky Department of Education.

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: info@kentuckylantern.com. Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook and Twitter.

Get stories like these delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for The 74 Newsletter

Republish This Article

We want our stories to be shared as widely as possible — for free.

Please view The 74's republishing terms.

On The 74 Today