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Wayne Lewis Talks JCPS Plan, Defends Charter Schools On 'In Conversation'

Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Wayne Lewis
Kentucky Department of Education
Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Wayne Lewis

Listen to this week's episode here:

Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Wayne Lewis talked charter schools, the Jefferson County Public Schools corrective action plan and education policy on this week’s ‘In Conversation with Rick Howlett.’

Lewis, who was appointed by the Kentucky Board of Education in April 2018,  said there’s“a lot of work to do” on the JCPS corrective action plan. The plan was agreed to by JCPS and the Kentucky Department of Education last September to avoid a state takeover, which was recommended after a stinging management audit of the school district.

Lewis said another audit would check the progress of that plan after two years, adding he could still recommend state assistance or management of the school district, depending on the audit’s results.

He later discussed charter schools, their funding and their accessibility for students. He said he advocates for charter schools because they offer parents more school choices.

“I believe [charter schools are] positive in that the only kids who would be there would be kids whose parents believe that this is a better setting for them to be,” Lewis said. “It’s really not a whole lot different than the application process that’s used in Jefferson County Public School for schools of choice.”

Some say otherwise. Critics say charter schools divert funds from public schools, and many listeners called ‘In Conversation’ concerned that charter schools would not be effective in Kentucky. When the idea was proposed in 2017, local opponents called the charter schools a “failed experiment” and Attorney General Andy Beshear cautioned against defunding public schools to pay for charters.

If charter schools are approved, Lewis expects they would open in urban areas such as Louisville or Lexington, and said those schools should provide free public transportation and free and reduced lunch to qualified students.

Join us next Friday for In Conversation, when we will talk with basketball hall-of-famer Dan Issel and GLI President Kent Oyler about whether Louisville is prepared to support a major league sports team.  Issel is president of “NBA 2 Louisville,” the investment group trying to lure a franchise to the city.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.