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Action This Week in Kentucky House on Charter-School Legislation

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This week, a charter-school measure sponsored by Rep. John Carney, HB520, will be taken up by the House Education Committee, probably on Thursday. HB520 is a very weak charter bill, apparently because of unjustified concerns about the constitutionality of a stronger bill.

The Center for Education Reform recently asked former Solicitor General of the United States, Paul Clement, who has argued 80 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, to provide a legal analysis of the Kentucky Constitution’s provisions regarding the state’s educational system. He and a team of constitutional lawyers at the Washington, D.C. firm of Kirkland & Ellis found that the Constitution does “not limit the General Assembly’s broad authority under Section 183 to structure the common school system as the General Assembly sees fit.”

Some Kentucky policymakers say they’ve been told that the state constitution requires the operation of schools exclusively through existing elected school boards. But in his report, Clement finds that Section 183 of the constitution “clearly grants the General Assembly broad authority to decide what reforms will make the common school system most efficient.”

Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, said that the report was great news for the cause of parent power in Kentucky, and urged policymakers to change course. “To embrace a watered down, ineffective, measure on the erroneous notion that a strong bill is unconstitutional would be tragic,” Allen said. “There’s no reason that this weak legislation should go forward.”

HB520 would put Kentucky’s charter school law in the same category as states like Iowa, Virginia and Kansas, the weakest and least effective charter programs among the 43 states that have enacted charter laws over the past 25 years.

Read the Clements report here.