Judge Overturns Funding Law for Charter Schools

(NationalUSNews.com) — Charter schools are the center of the school-choice movement. They are publicly funded schools with more autonomy in the way they operate while still being accountable for results, which has historically allowed for innovation and educational choice for families who cannot afford private education for their children.

The concept grew out of Minnesota with the City Academy Charter School, and now there are charter schools in 44 states and the District of Columbia. In 2017, Kentucky enacted a ballot measure to allow for charter schools but didn’t provide a mechanism for funding them. Another attempt to establish charter schools in the state took place in 2022 but was struck down.

On Monday, December 11, Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled against a measure that would have allowed for state funding for public charter schools. Shepherd described the concept of charter schools as a “separate and unequal” system that attempts to bypass public schools when he made the ruling that using public funding for charter schools violated the state’s constitution. He says the issue is not about the debate about school choice but merely whether the current legislation being proposed would “run afoul” of the state’s constitution.

Jim Waters, president of The Bluegrass Institute, a Kentucky-based nonprofit, says that the state needs charter schools to help students who may never have a chance without a better education. Todd Ziebarth from the National Alliance for Charter Schools says that the argument Judge Shepherd is relying on is that charter schools are not public schools, which is an argument that has been debunked in other states.

Ziebarth believes that eventually, the Kentucky Supreme Court will support school choice. Democratic lawmakers in the state have characterized the school choice movement as an attempt to funnel taxpayer money into private schools. There seems to be an understanding among people on both sides of the issue that Monday’s ruling will be appealed. Judge Phillip Shepherd’s previous eight-year term expired on January 1, 2023; however, he won his re-election to the seat in November 2022 against GOP-backed challenger Joe Bilby.

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