Lawsuit takes aim at blocking Kentucky’s charter school law
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky law aimed at allowing charter schools to open on a pilot basis has drawn a legal challenge from public education advocates, who claim that the measure siphons money from school districts in violation of the state constitution.
The lawsuit asks that a judge prevent the implementation of the 2022 measure, which narrowly passed the state’s Republican-dominated legislature over Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto.
The new law requires that two charter schools open — one in Louisville, the state’s largest city, and another in northern Kentucky — to study the impact of charter schools. The measure also created a permanent funding stream for charters.
The lawsuit was filed late last week in Franklin County Circuit Court and requests an expedited review. Plaintiffs include the Council for Better Education, a nonprofit corporation that represents Kentucky’s public school districts.
The state attorney general’s office has been notified of the lawsuit and is reviewing the case “to determine next steps,” Krista Buckel, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Daniel Cameron, said Tuesday. The attorney general’s office was not named as a party in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that the measure “unlawfully diverts local tax revenue levied by local boards of education to unaccountable charter schools” in violation of Kentucky’s constitution.
It continues a long policy fight over whether to introduce charter schools into the Bluegrass State.
The legislature authorized charter schools in 2017, but none were created in the state because lawmakers for ensuing years didn’t provide a permanent funding mechanism. That changed when Republican lawmakers followed up by enacting the 2022 law, which created a long-term funding method for charter schools.
The lawsuit asks the circuit court to strike down the 2022 measure for its “diversion of public revenues to charter schools.”
“The Kentucky Constitution demands that public money go to public schools, and not to unaccountable schools operated outside the management and control of the school district’s elected board of education,” the suit said.
Supporters of the new charter school law say charters would give parents more choices for their children’s schooling.
Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne said Tuesday that the lawsuit is being reviewed.
“Regardless, we remain committed to ensuring that the parents and children of Kentucky have access to the educational resources they need,” Osborne, a Republican, said in a statement. “Charter schools are public schools and could provide districts flexibility to meet the needs of their students.”
In his veto, Beshear said the measure would divert money from traditional public schools into charter schools, which he said would lack appropriate levels of oversight and accountability.
The lawsuit also was filed on behalf of Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville and the Dayton Independent Board of Education in northern Kentucky.
It’s the latest legal test for school choice advocates in Kentucky. They suffered a bitter setback last month, when Kentucky’s Supreme Court struck down a GOP-backed initiative to award tax credits for donations supporting private school tuition.
Opponents said that proposal also would have diverted money from public schools in violation of Kentucky’s constitution. Supporters said the measure offered opportunities for parents who want new schooling options for their children but are unable to afford them.