The Kentucky Board of Education recently unanimously backed an education policy agenda presented by current Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis. The agenda includes several ideas that have been met with mixed results at best in other states.
WDRB.com has more:
Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis and the Kentucky Board of Education will push for charter school funding, allowing superintendents to hire principals and giving school districts greater flexibility in hiring and firing teachers when the General Assembly convenes in January.
The items related to hiring principals and hiring/firing teachers cut into a bedrock element of the Kentucky Education Reform Act — Site-Based Decision-Making. These councils, made up of teachers and parents, exert school-level local control over budgeting and operations.
Meanwhile, the charter funding issue could lead to negative impacts for local school funding. A few examples from Tennessee, a state demographically similar to Kentucky, highlight the potential challenges.
First, despite years of charter schools, Tennessee isn’t really making earth-shaking gains in terms of student achievement:
Maybe we are closing achievement gaps? Again, no.
Back in 2013, Tennessee students eligible for free/reduced lunch had an average NAEP reading score of 256 and scored 20 points below the non-eligible students. Now, that average score is 252 (four points worse) and 19 points below. For 4th grade, there’s a similar story, with free/reduced lunch eligible students scoring 25 points below their non-eligible peers this year. Four years ago, it was 26 points.
We’re not moving the needle. Our most vulnerable students continue to be left behind. Meanwhile, we hear nice words from top policymakers and see little actual result in terms of tangible improved investment in schools or any meaningful upgrade in teacher pay. Our testing system has yet to be proven.
Then, there’s the financial impact to districts, as illustrated by a study of Metro Nashville Public Schools:
Even if the Nashville School board approves no new charter applications, more than 5,000 additional charter seats — costing $45 million a year — will come into existence by fall 2019 under current agreements. Yet charter operators still are seeking to create another 13 schools that would drain another $75 million a year from the school system.
To put it in perspective: This spring, MNPS is proposing to grow its annual operating budget from $790 million to $813 million — a $23 million increase. Not coincidentally, the budget plan contemplates about $23 million in additional cash outlays for charter schools.
In other words: Every dime of new revenue growth is going to charters, leaving little or nothing for traditional schools. The math is dizzying and troubling.
In other words, Kentucky’s Board of Education would do well to dig into the details and press pause on the Wayne Lewis agenda. Results in Tennessee and elsewhere indicate what he’s selling won’t buy much that matters.
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