Independent governor’s race candidate Drew Curtis wants to improve education in the state by considering legislation to allow charter schools, taking a hard look at the academic standards and expanding access to unique college-level curriculum for gifted high school students.
As a way to offer new, innovative, and more flexible ways of educating children, the Kentucky Chamber has been supportive of legislation to create charter schools in the state. Kentucky is one of a handful of states left in the country to not pass some form of charter school legislation.
Implementation of charter schools differs from state to state based on the enacting legislation. When asked if the idea of charter schools is something he could support, Curtis said he has seen some models that he believes could work in Kentucky and would be supportive of those.
“For me, it is really going to come down to what is the implementation,” Curtis said noting the successes and failures in other states on the issue (at 3:00). “Rather than instituting a blanket edict going ‘okay, it is game on for whatever,’ let’s try a small scale first, let’s have a couple of these things. You know, you guys take a shot at it and we will see how it goes and if it works, then we will look at expanding it.”
When discussing the legislation pushed in the 2015 session by state Sen. Mike Wilson which would have set up public charter schools in low performing areas through pilot projects, Curtis said he would likely be in favor of that type of legislation.
Another hot button issue in the governor’s race is the academic standards adopted by Kentucky. In the 2015 race, Republican candidate Matt Bevin has stated he is not a supporter of the standards and would like to see them replaced while Democratic candidate Jack Conway says the state should stay the course and keep the standards with possible changes from the local level.
Curtis said in his interview with the Kentucky Chamber that he would not repeal the standards at this point and would trust the teachers on the issue, noting that most teachers in the state support the standards. (Discussion on academic standards beginning at 5:00 in the video below).
As for what types of changes could be made to the standards, Curtis said he would like to discuss issues with teachers and make very specific adjustments at the local level based on needs.
“You can be for or against common core and that excites people politically, but what I like is when I talk to teachers and I say ‘give me things that don’t work for you,’” Curtis said, adding examples of concerns he has heard from teachers in the state (at 7:00 in the interview).
In his policy stances, Curtis states that he believes early college high school is something that should be looked at for implementation across the state.
Currently, the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science exists on the campus of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green and the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead State University just opened its doors to the first class of 60 students in August.
The schools offer students a way to complete their last two years of high school while also earning college credit that can go toward a degree at the campus they are on or transfer to another university. The students selected for the schools based on test scores, grades in their first two years of school and other factors.
Curtis said he has had a chance to speak with some of the students at the Gatton Academy about their experiences and feels the system helps advance the students in many ways and helps build a better skilled workforce (discussion at the beginning of the interview).
“I really like this idea because that allows if you’ve got kids that are capable of handling that kind of a work load, you can throw them into that kind of a system and produce people who have very rarified, very high-tech skills,” Curtis said (at 2:15 in interview above).