U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell released the following statement today while participating in the Kentucky Charter School Association Education Summit in Louisville, Kentucky:
“Thank you for that introduction. And thank you, Hal Heiner, for hosting this important summit to address Kentucky’s crisis in public education. Your organization, the Kentucky Charter School Association, is playing a key role in advocating for children trapped in failing schools.
“I also want to thank Lisa Grover, the senior director of advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Kentucky is one of only eight states that do not have public charter schools, but with your knowledge and expertise, I hope we can change that.
“All of you know the scope of the problem we face. One out of every four Kentucky freshmen who enter high school will not graduate within four years.
“In an education system built on a “one size fits all” philosophy, over 10,000 young Kentuckians a year drop out of school, with little likelihood to return and little hope for the future.
“Dropping out before graduating high school subjects kids to a lifetime of hardship—one that too often includes prison, where 80 percent of inmates are high-school dropouts.
“And these failures of our school system fall the hardest on minority and low-income children.
“This one-size-fits-all system is failing Kentucky’s children so badly that the Commonwealth’s education commissioner, Terry Holliday, has referred to the situation in Jefferson County as “academic genocide.”
“If our schools are failing, our Commonwealth fails with them. Students, parents, and communities across Kentucky must demand schools that put students first, produce results, and reward outstanding teachers.
“Public charter schools can do that. They are public schools that are entrepreneurial. They insist on accountability at every level.
“In essence, a public charter school is a public school that is free from many of the encumbrances of government red tape—but is still held accountable for student achievement.
“The flexibility offered by public charter schools encourages teachers and administrators to use their own good judgment in innovative ways to produce positive results.
“And most importantly, public charter schools give parents the opportunity to choose the school that is right for their child. We all know that parental involvement in the education of a child is of paramount importance. When they play an active role, good things happen.
“A Stanford University study found that the “typical student in Indiana public charter schools gains more learning in a year than his or her traditional public-school counterparts….these positive patterns are produced in Indianapolis, where historically, student academic performance has been poor.”
“Now, if Indiana can offer their children better choices, why can’t Kentucky do the same?
“Kentucky’s state Senate has passed a bill that allows conversion to a public charter school as an option for persistently low-performing schools. Now the State House needs to address the issue.
“I’m appreciative of the hard work of Senator Mike Wilson, the chair of the Education Committee, for getting this bill through the state Senate. And Representative Brad Montell has brought a charter school bill before the state House four years in a row and will keep fighting this year. I hope more state lawmakers will aid their efforts.
“Senator Wilson, Representative Montell and many more have realized that there is no reason for parents in Kentucky to be denied the opportunity to choose different, and often times better, schools for their children.
“Parents in Indiana and 41 other states have that opportunity. Kentucky parents should also have it.
“Because I believe that public charter schools hold such tremendous promise for children in chronically underperforming schools, I have supported federal incentives for states that permit them, and will continue to do so. I can only hope that Kentucky will move forward to accept these incentives and pass a charter schools law.
“I believe Kentuckians are capable of great things. We can do more than what we’re doing now. If Kentucky is going to make a fundamental change in education, we simply must declare that failure is not an option.
“The leaders of this important cause are assembled here today, and I look forward to working with you to make that declaration a reality. Thank you.”