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Senate Bill Reignites Charter School Debate


Legislation paving the way for charter school pilot programs in Fayette and Jefferson counties moved out of a Senate committee Thursday, but not without sustained questioning from opponents. 

Charter school bills have failed in previous sessions, but with a new cheerleader in the governor's office Senate Republicans are hoping to push the conversation forward. Thursday, Bowling Green Republican Mike Wilson said persistent achievements gaps demand the state test out some new options.

"We're not educating young African-American students in... inner city areas and we're failing them miserably," the lawmaker told the media. "Why not just them another tool in the toolbox that would address it?"

Under Wilson's bill, charter schools would be exempt from select laws and regulations that apply to local school districts but bound by other rules dealing with safety, testing, and attendance. While supporters describe the program as a recipe for innovation , Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler worries about a drain on resources for traditional public schools.

"It can't just be about changing the name of the school, taking away all the rules, and suddenly that's the magic fix to education. We have to work together. We have to all have a seat at the table," she said.

Students would apply to charter schools through a lottery system, with registration preferences extended to those attending struggling schools.

Wilson says he expects a warm reception in the Senate but doubts the bill will receive a hearing in the House.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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