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Judge strikes down Kentucky law establishing funding for charter schools

Dec. 13, 2023
Judge says the law would lead to creation of a "separate and unequal" education system.

A Kentucky law that would have created funding for charter schools has been struck down as unconstitutional.

The Louisville Courier Journal reports that Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the law was an attempt to "establish a separate class of publicly funded but privately controlled schools" that would create a "separate and unequal" system.

"There is no way to stretch the definition of 'common schools' so broadly that it would include such privately owned and operated schools that are exempt from the statutes and administrative regulations governing public school education," he said.

The law would have made it easier for charter schools to open in the state. Charter schools have been legal in Kentucky since 2017, but none have opened, largely because of a lack of funding.

The law that was struck down would have required Jefferson County Public Schools and a group in Northern Kentucky to each approve and oversee a charter school by July 2023.

In his decision, Shepherd focused on the part of the definition that says "every child residing in the district" can attend a common school. Charter schools would have a limited amount of students.

"Charter schools may turn away qualified children residing in the district," court documents state. "The statute allows the charter school to define for itself 'the targeted student population and community it hopes to serve.'"

The ruling also argues that private entities that run the schools would not be regulated by the law even though they would receive public money.

"There is no restriction that would prohibit the takeover of charter schools by private equity investors who could increase their profits by draining the charter school of tax-dollar-funded resources needed to educate children," according to court documents.

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