"Public charter school" means a public school that (a) Is a public body corporate and politic, exercising public power, including the power in name to contract and be contracted with, sue and be sued, and adopt bylaws not inconsistent with this section...That's the beginning of Kentucky's new legal definition of a charter school, and the words "body corporate and politic" deserve attention. They mean that a Kentucky charter school will be a government entity, like a housing authority or a library board. With that government status, the school will be neither a nonprofit corporation nor a for-profit corporation, with no "owners" and no way to pay out dividends or profits.
Other provisions of House Bill 520 underline that government status for Kentuck charter schools:
- Although the members of the charter school's board will not be elected, the application for a charter school will include initial board members and draft board by-laws that specify how future directors will be chosen. At least two members must be parents of children who attend the school.
- Board members will take a statutory oath of office.
- Board members will file "full disclosure reports and identify any potential conflicts of interest, relationships with management organizations, and relationships with family members who are applying to or are employed by the public charter school or have other business dealings with the school, the management organization of the school, or any other public charter school and shall make these documents available online through the authorizer."
- Board meetings will follow the Open Meetings Law.
- School records will be subject to the Open Records Law.
Added note: Since the "body corporate and politic" is created after the charter application is approved, the application must come from someone else. HB 520 allows applications from "teachers, parents, school administrators, community residents, public organizations, nonprofit organizations, or a combination thereof." That list excludes for-profit companies, and the debates on the House and Senate floor provide a legislative record that underlines that exclusion.
Another note: The bill allows contracts with nonprofits and for-profits. It defines an education service provider as "an education management organization, school design provider, or any other partner entity with which a public charter school contracts for educational design, implementation, or comprehensive management." If a charter school will work with that kind of provider:
- The charter application must include the provider's history, its past results, and planned terms for the provider contract.
- Providers must submit monthly detailed budgets to the charter school board.
- Providers paid $10,000 or more must be subject to Open Records requests for records associated with the contract.
Bottom line: Kentucky public charter schools will be directed by an new kind of government body, not by for-profit or nonprofit organizations.