Governor vetoes bill to fund Kentucky charter schools

(The Center Square) – Saying Kentucky public schools are underfunded, Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a bill that would have funded charter schools in the state for the first time since they were created in 2017.

Kentucky law established charter schools five years ago, but that occurred without any funding mechanism. House Bill 9, which passed the Senate, 22-14, last week, would have rectified that.

Beshear, however, said the taxpayers’ funding would go to charter schools without the same controls and accountability measures as traditional public schools.

“Through House Bill 9, the General Assembly violates its constitutional duty, permitting schools that are not substantially uniform and that do not provide equal educational opportunities to all Kentucky children,” Beshear said in his veto message.

The Kentucky House would need 51 votes to override the veto. The bill passed the House with 51 votes. The Senate would need 20.

The bill also calls for pilot charter school projects in Louisville and northern Kentucky. The latter pilot led KY 120 United-AFT to file an ethics complaint against state Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort Mitchell, earlier this week.

The group, which advocates for public school teachers, claimed Banta received a political favor with the inclusion of an “urban academy” in northern Kentucky as part of the bill.

Banta denied the allegation.

Besides the pilot schools in two of Kentucky’s most populated areas, the bill also revises the appeals process for charter school applications rejected by the state Department of Education.

The department still can turn down a charter school applicant. Under the bill, if that happens, the applicant can request the department to help it improve its application.

However, the legislation does include a provision for smaller school districts – defined as ones with fewer than 7,500 students – to block a charter school applicant from appealing.

Beshear earlier vetoed a bill that would have prohibited teaching some critical race theory elements, and another that would have banned transgender athletes from competing in high school sports outside of their assigned gender.

Legislators reconvene next week and can consider overriding the vetoes.