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Jefferson Co. Board of Education authorizes JCPS to challenge Kentucky charter school law

Liz Schlemmer
House Bill 9 requires school districts to transfer certain state, local and federal funds to charter schools approved within district borders.

The Jefferson County Board of Education has authorized the district to move forward with a legal challenge to the state’s new charter school law, also known as House Bill 9.

After emerging from closed executive session Tuesday night, all seven members voted in favor of a resolution giving Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio and district attorneys the power to join a potential challenge to House Bill 9 with the Council for Better Education, a public education advocacy group.

The resolution reads as follows:

“IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED that the Jefferson County Board of Education authorizes Superintendent Pollio and legal counsel to take all necessary steps to support the Council for Better Education, Inc. (‘CBE’), in its legal challenge to the unconstitutionality of House Bill 9, including serving as a co-plaintiff, and the payment of any appropriate dues or assessments related to this school district's membership in CBE or its support of the referenced legal challenge.”

The GOP-led General Assembly narrowly passed House Bill 9 earlier this year. The law creates the funding mechanism for charter schools in Kentucky. It requires school districts to transfer certain state, local and federal funds to charter schools approved within district borders.

House Bill 9 also includes a pilot program, which mandates the creation of two charter schools: one in Jefferson County and one in northern Kentucky.

The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents announced its decision Tuesday not to involve itself in that pilot program as a charter “authorizer.”

In Jefferson County, the pilot program requires The Jefferson County Board of Education to authorize the area’s charter school by July 1, 2023.

CBE hasn’t yet filed any lawsuit challenging House Bill 9.

“We’re in the process of reviewing and making the determination about the possibility of filing,” CBE executive secretary Tom Shelton told LPM News.

Shelton said the decision whether to file is “fairly imminent” and would likely come before the end of the year.

CBE is currently suing the state over the constitutionality of the state’s tax-credit scholarship program, which sends would-be tax dollars to private schools. Justices say they are likely to rule in that case before the end of the year.

“It seems that there’s more and more legislation each year that is directed at trying to privatize public funds,” Shelton said.

Kentucky is one of the only states in the country without charter schools. Advocates say charters provide more innovative education options for students and families.

Opponents say they drain public funds and students from school districts, which are already struggling financially.

This story has been updated with additional information.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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