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Beshear vetoes charter school funding bill

Screenshot from Beshear's Facebook page

Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a bill that would fund charter schools for the first time in Kentucky.

In March, the GOP-led General Assembly passed House Bill 9, which would require school districts to send funds to charter schools approved within their borders.

At a press conference Thursday, Beshear called the measure unconstitutional.

“The bill would send taxpayer dollars to charter schools that have boards that are not elected and are not answerable to the people — public dollars being spent without that oversight,” he said.

“And they’re not even required to comply with the same controls and accountability measures as our public schools.”

Charter schools are legal in most U.S. states. They are publicly funded, but run by private groups. They also have fewer regulations than traditional public schools, which advocates say makes them more likely to innovate.

Opponents say charter schools drain students and resources from school districts, which are already strapped for cash. Critics also point to provisions that allow charter schools to contract with for-profit companies to manage day-to-day operations.

“Our taxpayer dollars should not be redirected to for-profit entities that run charter schools,” Beshear said.

The measure Beshear vetoed would give school districts, the mayors of Louisville and Lexington, and the governing board of Northern Kentucky University the power to “authorize” charter schools. That means they would have the power to review applications and decide which groups to grant charters to and for how long. Groups who are denied a charter have a right to appeal to the state under the measure.

The bill also mandates the creation of a charter school in Jefferson County Public Schools and in northern Kentucky within the next two years.

Republicans may have enough votes to override the Democratic governor’s veto when they return next week — but it’s not a sure thing. The bill can’t afford to lose any support in the House, where it passed with 51 votes — the bare minimum needed to override. In the Senate the bill passed with 22 votes, two more than the number required for an override in that chamber.

If the General Assembly does override Beshear’s veto, the governor said groups are poised to sue.

Jess Clark is WWNO's Education Desk reporter. Jess comes to the station after two years as Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting for North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC (Chapel Hill). Her reporting has aired on national programs, including NPR's All Things Considered, Here & Now from WBUR, and NPR's Weekend Edition.
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