Making Democracy Work

Action and Advocacy

PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOUNDATION OF DEMOCRACY


The League of Women Voters of Kentucky and its Education Committee has sent the following letter to Hal Heiner, Commissioner of Education and Workforce Development and Stephen Pruitt, KY Department of Education Commissioner. Concerned about the implementation of charter schools in Kentucky, the LWV of Kentucky has approved the Annenberg Rules as guiding principles for the development of such schools during the coming year.

October 18, 2017

Commissioner:

The League of Women Voters of Kentucky is very concerned about the passage of charter school legislation in Kentucky because of the threat it represents to public schools. Equal access to quality education is essential for preparing Kentucky students for their futures. Because of our concern for the education of all students, we believe the principles of the Annenberg Rules should serve as the primary guide for assessing the implementation of charter schools in the Commonwealth.

The Annenberg document, "Public Accountability for Charter schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight" (2013) details the following:

  • Traditional districts and charter schools should work together to ensure a coordinated approach that serves all children.

  • School governance should be representative and transparent.

  • Charter schools should ensure equal access to interested students and prohibit practices that discourage enrollment or disproportionately push enrolled students out of the school.

  • Charter school discipline policy should be fair and transparent.

  • All students deserve equitable and adequate school facilities. Districts and charter schools should work together to ensure that facilities arrangements do not disadvantage students in either sector.

  • Online charter schools should be regulated for quality transparency and the protection of student data. NB: Kentucky has not legislated the possibility of online charter schools.

  • Monitoring and oversight of charter schools are critical to protect the public interest. Charter schools should be strong and fully funded by the state.

While the above standards seem reasonable and mesh with the Kentucky legislation, the League sees the need to move forward judiciously. As noted in the report, "...uneven academic performance; practices that pushed or kept students out of charter schools; overly harsh discipline policies; funding patterns that destabilized traditional schools; and a lack of representative governance, transparency, and oversight have led to potential conflicts of interest and instances of fraud and other problems." Caution is urged as Kentucky proceeds.

The League requests that you review the Annenberg Rules document for additional recommendations concerning local level implementation as well as identification of potential pitfalls to be avoided. See http://www.annenberginstitute.org/sites/default/files/CharterAccountabilityStds.pdf.

Your attention to this information is appreciated.

- Bonnie Lynch, President, LWV of Kentucky
- Carol A. O'Reilly, Chair, LWV of Kentucky Education Committee
- CC: Kentucky State Senators, Kentucky State Representatives

Learn more about the work of the League of Women Voters: http:///www.lwv.org. "Like" the League on Facebook: facebook.com/leagueofwomenvoters. Follow us on Twitter: @LWV and Instagram: @leagueofwomenvoters.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding and advocacy of major public policy issues.

FAIR & AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Dear Mr. Hill:
The League of Women Voters of Louisville believes that decent, suitable, desirable, and affordable housing should be available for all in our community. We support both governmental and private initiatives which will increase the development of permanent, affordable housing for both renters and homeowners. Therefore, we support the Land Development Code Revisions, as proposed by the Fair & Affordable Housing LDC Sub-Committee. These are found in section FAH Items 1 through 5. These revisions offer incentives to developers to provide diversity housing and provide bonuses for affordable housing. These revisions allow for multi-family residential mixes in additional zones. This is important in making possible more age integration. These revisions and incentives also may lead to less racial segregation.

Pat Murrell, President
League of Women Voters of Louisville

RESTORATION OF FELON VOTING RIGHTS

Kentucky is one of 3 states that permanently disenfranchise all persons with felony convictions even after they have completed their full sentence. According to the state constitution, the governor can restore rights. Felons can apply to the governor seeking to have their voting rights restored. To make restoration of rights automatic, it will require a constitutional amendment.

The League is supporting this constitutional amendment, as provided for in HB 70 and SB 15.

Why is the League supporting this? First, because we believe that the right of every citizen to vote is essential to democracy. According to a League study in January, 2013, there are 180,000 disenfranchised voters who have completed their sentence, and in most states would have automatically had their rights restored. In 2012, 1,441 applied for restoration and 1,152 were granted (80%). (Note that there are sometimes restrictions based on the crime that was committed.)

Second, because the effects of not being allowed to vote is very discriminatory. Kentucky possesses the second highest African American disenfranchisement rate in the country. The state population is 89% white and 8% African American, but 24% of the total prison population is African American. More than one of every five African American adults in Kentucky cannot vote, which is nearly triple the national disenfranchisement rate. (Why African Americans are more likely to be incarcerated is another topic of study.)

Should not the young, black, father who served time for drug possession have the right to vote for the school board member who decides what kind of education his children will get?


Pat Murrell, President
League of Women Voters of Louisville

And More Recently . . . from LWV President Pat

At the July 24th Metro Council meeting, they unanimously adopted the following resolution:

A RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE AMENDMENT OF THE KENTUCKY CONSTITUTION 145 TO RESTORE VOTING RIGHTS TO PERSONS CONVICTED OF FELONIES OTHER THAN TREASON, INTENTIONAL KILLING, A SEX CRIME, OR BRIBERY, THE RIGHT TO VOTE AT THE EXPIRATION OF PROBATION OR FINAL DISCHARGE FROM PAROLE OR MAXIMUM EXPIRATION OF SENTENCE.

On behalf of the League, I made the following statement in favor of the resolution:

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 when the amendment passed giving women the right to vote. We take voting very seriously. To us, voting is a responsibility and a duty for all citizens, essential for democracy.

A report by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky in January, 2013, shows that there are 181,000 Kentucky residents who have completed their sentences for a felony conviction. The only way any of these residents can restore their voting rights is by petitioning the governor. In 2013, 1,132 had their civil rights restored.

Further, Kentucky has the second highest African American disenfranchisement rate in the country: 22% in Kentucky compared with national rate of 7.66%. One of every five African American adults in Kentucky cannot vote. Kentucky is one of only 3 states that does not automatically restore rights.

Once when I was registering voters at a day care center, a young man, coming to pick up his children, pulled me aside and explained that he could not register. What struck me was that not only could he not vote for president, but he could not vote in races that affect his DAILY LIFE: school board member, judges, metro council member. This is grossly unfair.

The Kentucky League of Women Voters has supported the bill for restoration of felony rights each time it passed in the Kentucky House. With your support, we may get it through the Senate next time. Therefore, we applaud the Council for introducing this resolution and urge your continued efforts to restore these vital rights to all citizens.