U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cosponsored two amendments today to support the creation or expansion of high-quality charter schools and provide existing federal funds to help low-income children attend the private or public school of their choice. These amendments, which are expected to be considered as part of the FY 2014 Budget Resolution this week, would offer parents more choices in their child's education, and assist parents in getting their children out of failing or unsafe schools.
The first measure, cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), seeks to take successful charter school models and expand them. It also would incentivize states to take these successful models and implement them. Kentucky is one of only eight states without public charter schools. The second, cosponsored by Senators Alexander and Rand Paul, would permit existing federal funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to follow low-income children to the school of their choice.
Kentuckians know the benefits public charter schools can bring, and want them. A recent poll found that 72 percent of Kentuckians favor legislation that would allow persistently low-performing schools the ability to become public charter schools. "Unfortunately, Kentucky is one of only eight states that does not give parents the opportunity to choose a public charter school for their child, and this needs to change," Sen. McConnell said. "I am proud to support legislative measures that prioritize school choice initiatives that incentivize the expansion of successful charter school models and allow parents of low-income children to use Title I federal dollars for the purpose for which the fund was created: to help disadvantaged youth access a quality education."
Kentucky's children are not getting the education they need to succeed. According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 35 percent of Kentucky's fourth-graders and 36 percent of Kentucky eighth-graders read at or above what the assessment defines as proficiency level. Only 31 percent of Kentucky eighth-graders are proficient in math. The situation is worse for children from low-income families. Only 26 percent of those in fourth grade are proficient in grade-level math. The crippling effects of a failing school system persist beyond the fourth or eighth grade. One out of every four Kentucky freshmen who enter high school will not graduate within four years. Of the 41 Kentucky public schools that were found to be failing last year, 18 of those were in Jefferson County. In fact, the Commonwealth's education commissioner, Terry Holliday, said the county's situation was "academic genocide."
"Low-income families should not be subjected to low-performing schools," Sen. McConnell said. "If our schools are failing, America fails with them. Students, parents and communities in Kentucky and across America must demand schools put students first, produce results, and reward outstanding teachers. One successful approach that has been implemented in 42 states, but not in Kentucky, is the establishment of public charter schools."