January 28, 2017 10:19 pm

Attention Public Education Advocates: Kentucky Needs Your Help!

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Kentucky is the largest of the seven remaining states that have yet to enact charter legislation. Thanks to a recent shift in power in their state government, that’s about to change. An overreaching charter school bill is poised to become law as soon as the general assembly resumes next week.

We put together a website and Facebook page, and sought to align with other groups with similar concerns. That task has proved difficult to do, even as charter legislation is looming. Our coalition kick-off meeting attracted more than 20 organizations who supported our group’s mission, but they have been slow to sign on to an anti-charter position statement. Our district’s largest public education advocacy groups, in order to have a “seat at the table,” have chosen not come out forcefully in opposition to charter legislation. Many others are waiting to see what is in the final bill to take a stand, but by that time it may be too late.

In the meantime, many residents in Kentucky are interpreting this quiet, cooperative stance as being “in favor” of charters. Local media have been running mostly pro-charter stories, often times not even realizing they are using coded language provided by the education reformers. SOSKY has urged them to share the other side, but they, like so many others, don’t recognize the buzz words.

For about a year now, our group has been sharing stories of what has unfolded in charter schools around the rest of the country, using the hashtag #NowAreYouStartingToGetIt? We invited friends to follow our page, join our “private group” on Facebook, and come to our strategy meetings.

Crickets. But then this happened.

Earlier this month, our state’s new supermajority congress passed sweeping and unscrupulous measures (“right to work,” attacks on women’s reproductive rights, and dismantling our local university’s board of trustees under a bill pretending to be about dog ownership), in just their first week in session.

Then came Betsy DeVos and suddenly, Kentuckians are starting to wake up!

In just the past few weeks our Facebook followers have increased 5-fold, from a less than 100 to well over 500. Two weeks ago we opened our second SOSKY chapter, this time in Lexington. And in just the past week, we’ve opened 10 more in rural communities around the state.

But will it be enough? The Kentucky legislative session resumes on Feb. 7, where they are expected to ram through this horrific ALEC-inspired bill. Stopping charter legislation in Kentucky will take a Herculean effort, but here’s why we all must come together to build a strong coalition to resist, for our nation’s sake:

  • Free public education is the cornerstone of our democracy.We need to shore up our public schools, not allow their resources to be siphoned off by outsiders.
  • Kentucky is next.We are one of just seven states that has, so far, managed to avoid this chapter of the “education reform” playbook.
  • Things are actually looking up. As a result of avoiding the charter school detour, we are actually starting to see our performance numbers outpace our neighboring states. According to data published on our state’s Department of Education website, Kentucky was recently ranked #16 in the nation in K-12 achievement. But our citizens would never know that, due to the rhetoric that is being circulated by education reformers.
  • The balance of power just shifted.This past November, the Kentucky state House, the last democratically held house in the south, flipped. This resulted in a dramatic shift to a charter hungry supermajority state congress. Furthermore, with the prospect of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, states that can resist implementing charter legislation just a little bit longer, might actually have a fighting chance to avoid the damage she is certain to unleash on public schools across the country.
  • Our community is asleep at the wheel.Kentuckians have no idea what’s about to happen to their schools. They are starting to hear whispers that “school choice” is coming, but they don’t know the full story. The bureaucrats and billionaires are telling us it won’t hurt, it won’t impact our rural counties, it will make our urban schools better, and competition is good. But you and I know that’s a lie. We’ve seen what has happened elsewhere. But many of our well-meaning taxpayers aren’t hearing both sides.
  • If Kentucky wins, we all win.With your help, Kentucky could be the domino in public education reform that remains standing. This is our chance, our moment, to stop the madness and Save Our Schools once and for all! Help save our schools in Kentucky and you could help reinforce the public school resistance everywhere.

How can you help us? We have put together a pretty sound strategy and ground game, but we are outspent, out-messaged and outmanned at every turn. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Support our Fight on Facebook. Share our posts, use our hashtags #StopChartersInKY and #NowAreYouStartingToGetIt? and help us get the national attention this fight deserves.
  • Use Your Connections. Reach out to folks you know in Kentucky and help move them from ambivalent to activist. Get them to take action by talking to neighbors and friends, writing letters to their local paper, and of course, contacting their representatives to tell them to vote “no” on any charter legislation that is proposed.
  • Join our Coalition.Let folks know you support our efforts by letting us post your logo on our coalition page. NPE just did!

The time and place to focus our efforts on putting the lights out on devastating charter school legislation is right here, right now, in Kentucky. We need our fellow public education advocates all over the country to help make sure Kentuckians learn the real facts about charters, not the “alternative facts” masterminded by the billionaires and bureaucrats. Using every resource at our disposal, we ask you to come to Kentucky’s aid and help us hold on to one of the final battlegrounds of public education. We have a chance to stop education reformers in their tracks and send them packing! Please help us #StopChartersInKY.