Superintendents: Charter schools unlikely in Boyle, Danville

Published 7:37 am Monday, April 23, 2018

Discussions on education and funding of public and charter schools have been at the forefront in Kentucky over the past few months. But superintendents say they don’t believe charter schools will have an impact locally for a while.

“You need a larger market to create the kinds of options that are often associated with a charter environment,” said Danville Superintendent Keith Look. “Most likely, we will see the first ones in Louisville, northern Kentucky.”

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Charter schools receive taxpayer dollars, must accept all students and cannot charge tuition like public schools, however they are managed by independent organizations. 


Look said it is typically harder for charter schools to open in rural areas and doesn’t expect to see one in the Danville community any time soon, unless the existing non-public schools — Danville Christian Academy or the Danville Montessori School — try to shift in that direction.

Boyle County Superintendent Mike LaFavers said he agreed.

“I think, on charter schools, I share Keith’s opinion that I don’t see a charter school coming into Danville-Boyle County any time real soon,” LaFavers said.

The conversations, he said, have been part of the discussion around education, along with conversations on pension reform and education funding.

The ongoing discussions statewide culminated in a change of leadership on April 17 with the resignation of Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt after a four-hour executive session of the Kentucky Board of Education.

The Herald-Leader’s editorial board has since called the legality of that executive session into question, as resignations do not fall under the items permitted to be discussed in closed session, according to Kentucky Revised Statute 61.810.

At that meeting, the board announced the decision to hire Wayne Lewis as an interim commissioner.

LaFavers said it was “hard to say” what the changes at the state board will have on the local districts.

“I think it’s yet to be seen what impact that will have. Our philosophy is, and the way our staff works, we come in every day and try to put our nose to the grindstone and focus on our kids,” LaFavers said.

The changes across the state, Look said, are just part of a larger change in education. Every 25-30 years, he said, there’s a major shift in public education. In 1989, that took the form of the Kentucky Eduction Reform Act, known as KERA.

“We’re right on schedule. This is the new era,” Look said. “It is about, what does ‘thorough and efficient’ mean in the new era? How does that manifest through college and career? How does that manifest through school choice?”

School choice, college and career readiness seem to be the big driving points, Look said.

Look said that wasn’t just happening in Kentucky.

“We see the next era of school reform focusing heavily on reappraisals of college and career readiness. Those are relatively new terms in the world of education. That really is what so much of our conversations will be driven by,” he said. “We see, at the local, state and national levels, a more public and intentional conversation around school choice and the debate as to the rights of families in selecting schools.”


LaFavers said he thought it was hard to talk about vouchers right now, too.

“I think I have to see what that even looks like. Right now, that is so theoretical. I would hold judgment on anything like that until I would see what that would be,” he said.

Lewis, the state’s new education commissioner, is known as a proponent of charter schools. Legislature was passed in January 2017 to allow charter schools in Kentucky, but none have opened yet.


Look said he suspects one will be open by August 2019.

There’s a lot of talk around families having the choice of where to send their child and around creating a voucher system, Look said.

“School choice will impact the finances of the local district. At $30,000 foot view, it looks like it doesn’t, the money just follows the child … Districts will always incur a cost. There is an indirect cost in school choice,” he said.

He said it’s important to look at other states who have already been through the process.

“Indiana in particular, they have pushed this envelope farther than most states. We should probably be looking to them for lessons learned,” Look said. “It’s hard to say necessarily whether that is in our future. With charter school legislation passing, obviously, there will be a new choice option entering the state of Kentucky.”

Look said, “The constitution of the commonwealth guarantees every kid a thorough and efficient education.”

“I think that the changes we are seeing, with the Kentucky Board of ED and the changing commissioner, (there) is potentially a new definition as to what through and efficient means,” he said.