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Gov. Beshear calls charter schools unconstitutional ahead of funding proposal

Gov. Andy Beshear at podium
Gov. Andy Beshear, file photo

Gov. Andy Beshear called charter schools and any proposals for public funding for them unconstitutional at a press conference Thursday.

“I believe charter schools overall are unconstitutional under the way our constitution writes about a system of public schools and what’s required,” Beshear said.

The Democrat cited past court cases that he said explain “how public dollars have to be going into public schools”.

“They try to change the words and change the definitions but schools run by corporations are not public schools,” Beshear said.

The governor’s comments were in response to questions about House Bill 9, which would provide funding for charter schools. The bill, sponsored by Bardstown Republican Rep. Chad McCoy, would require school districts to send funds to charter schools within a district's boundaries. 

The funding proposal would divert local, state and federal dollars from traditional public schools and spend a per-pupil amount on charter school students. 

The bill would also expand the list of entities and individuals allowed to authorize and create charter schools. But the governor’s primary opposition appeared to be the funding.

State law has allowed charter schools since 2017, however, none have been successfully established due to funding issues. The funding mechanism established to pay for charter school costs expired in 2018.

The governor made it clear that he will veto any bill that proposes public funding for charter schools. 

Beshear acknowledges that while charter schools across the country have helped create educational innovation, that can happen in existing public schools with the right funding.

“We can innovate with the right model and the right program in any and all of our public schools,” Beshear said. “Think about what we could do with those additional $2 billion going pre-K through 12.”  

Beshear said funneling public money to charter schools, which he calls corporations, is not the right approach.

“You can't starve public schools of the dollars that they need and then tell them they're not doing a good enough job and then give their dollars to corporations,” Beshear said. “Charter schools are not the right path.”

Rep. McCoy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

House Bill 9 is slated for a vote in the House Apportions and Revenue committee Thursday night.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.