A charter school bill backed by Gov. Matt Bevin cleared one half of the legislature Friday, but not without sparking an animated floor debate in the House.
The House Education Committee held a special meeting before the chamber gaveled in Friday to pass the bill – along with an amendment granting the mayors of Lexington and Louisville the power to authorize charter schools. Committee chair John Carney told WUKY Thursday he needed to be confident in the final product before sending it to the House.
"I'm not going to pass a bill just to say we passed one. I want to make sure that it's one that's a strong bill that will help Kentucky's children and parents, and also listening to all the groups that have concerns and be fair to them," Carney said.
The result then hit the House floor, launching a prolonged tug-of-war between supporters and opponents.
"There's just so much ignorance about this topic and so much fear about allowing people to be free and make their own choices," Republican Phil Moffett said.
"Why aren't we pushing to put more funding and more resources into our public schools instead of creating something else?" Democrat Will Coursey asked.
Kentucky is part of a shrinking minority, seven states, that have not allowed some form of charter school. Under Carney’s bill, school boards could initiate and oversee the publicly-funded alternative schools. Private groups, excluding for-profit companies, could apply.
HB520 now heads to the Senate, where it is also likely to pass.