Local school board members breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when Kentucky’s Board of Education voted to grant waivers to school boards seeking to hold off on charter school authorizer training, which many have criticized as too restrictive.
“I was just very excited” upon hearing the news, said Jane Wilson, who chairs the Bowling Green Independent School District’s board of education. “I just think it opens up a lot of doors for board members.”
Warren County Public Schools Board Chairman Kerry Young agreed, adding the change will offer local school board members more freedom to exercise their judgment and select training experiences that actually relate to their school district’s needs.
“I think the Kentucky Board of Education stepped up to the plate and made the right call,” he said, calling the opening of a charter school in either local school district unlikely.
“To me, there’s not a need for a charter school in Warren County,” he said. “Both districts are educating everyone that comes to their door.”
Charter schools have been legal in Kentucky since 2017, but not one has successfully opened because lawmakers haven’t enacted a method for funding them. Plans to open them must be approved by local school boards, a collective of local boards or the mayors of Louisville and Lexington, which act as their authorizers.
Recently, however, school boards across the state have balked at the annual 12-hour training requirement they must complete.
Local school board members who spoke to the Daily News said the requirement can be a tall order to complete on top of the regular training they’re responsible for, especially for inexperienced board members. Newer board members must complete 12 hours of continuing education training, often covering areas such as school finance, superintendent evaluation and ethics.
Under the 12-hour requirement, Wilson said she was often pulled away from training opportunities in topic areas that would have offered her insights into the big education issues such as school safety, equity for special-needs students and the impact of technology on the classroom.
“I never could take those because I was forced to take what was mandated,” she said.
“Each hour of training costs the local board taxpayer money,” BGISD board member Deborah Williams added in an email to the Daily News.
Young also agreed that the change would free up his fellow board members to take training courses more relevant to their daily experiences.
“To me, it’s a common-sense thing,” he said.
In December, eight school districts went before the state school board to request relief from the training requirement, but were ultimately denied.
Now, with a new state board of education seated after Gov. Andy Beshear took office, those eight school boards have been permitted waivers, along with an additional eight that came before the new board this month. Simpson County Schools is among that group, according to a KDE news release.
Other boards will be offered waivers if their superintendent requests one in writing to Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown, the release said. The waiver expires June 30, 2021.
Should a school board receive a charter school application, its members would have 10 days upon receiving the application to complete their training.
Also Tuesday, the Kentucky Board of Education reviewed an amendment to the state regulation that covers charter school authorizers and contains the 12-hour requirement. The change clarifies that board members only have to undergo training if they receive a charter school application.
Young said WCPS has already submitted a request for a waiver, while Wilson said she anticipates it to be a topic of discussion at an upcoming board meeting.