If you have a kid in the Fort Thomas Independent School district, or live in Fort Thomas, I hope you will take a close look at Kentucky’s House Bill 520. Let me explain why.
Fort Thomas schools are the hub of our community.
When test scores come out, we share them with each other online.
When there are sporting events, choir performances, school plays, etc., the entire community shows up. In Fort Thomas, you don’t just see one parent at school, you often see both. And it isn’t unusual to see both sets of Grandparents, the church pastor, and the closest neighbors!
Having arguably the best school system in Kentucky didn’t happen by accident. We invested to make it happen.
Despite our success, the State of Kentucky doesn’t treat us very well.
|This is an advertisement.|
Because of that fact, we have higher than normal local property taxes.
Most of the time we quietly go along with tax increases. I think we do this for a couple of reasons.
First, we have a terrific school board that is elected by our community. Unlike some communities, many consider the Fort Thomas school board election to be more important than the city council! Because we have such a good group, we know when they determine local money needs to be increased, it is for good reason.
Second, we know that without a terrific school system, our property values would plummet. When we vote to raise our local taxes for our schools, we know we are voting on something that will indirectly increase the value of our homes. Neighbors that don’t even have kids understand that fact.
This brings me to House Bill 520.
This bill is a charter school bill. The current language would authorize any student to take his/her local and state tax dollars and use them for any school in the state of Kentucky.
So, imagine your neighbor decides to send his child to a school in another County. Not only do the state dollars follow the child, so does your local tax dollars. The tax dollars that our locally elected school board voted to increase for the benefit our local community would be spent somewhere else.
Furthermore, the bill makes it possible for the dollars to be spent toward a “virtual school” that could be located a completely different region of the state. This, despite the fact that nearly every “virtual school” has demonstrated terrible outcomes for students.
Spending local taxes outside our community would be tough to take for those of us in Fort Thomas, and I honestly don’t believe that it’s constitutional.
That said, if it were to survive a lawsuit, it could be very bad for communities like ours. We are already in a constant battle over funding. To introduce that kind of dynamic would be a nightmare to manage.
Most of us believe that some sort of charter school bill will pass in Frankfort this session. What is in the final version matters.
Having our local school boards in charge of charters is a good idea.
Charters should be required to accept all kids (poor, disabled, etc.), just like our public schools.
Charters should be required to meet the same academic standards and adhere to the same levels of accountability as our public schools.
Having state dollars follow a child is one thing, but local dollars should be left out of the discussion. If they need additional funding (beyond state dollars) to make it work, they will need to make up the difference some other way.
If you agree there are some problems with House Bill 520, please let your representative know.
Call the LRC Message Line at: 1-800-372-7181 and/or call your representatives office at 1-502-564-8100 and ask for them by name.
If you care about your kid’s education, and/or your property values, take a minute to engage on this issue.
Brent Cooper is President & owner of C-Forward, one of the top I.T. service firms in Ohio and Kentucky. He lives in Fort Thomas with his wife Lisa and his daughters Sydney and Emma.