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NKU opts out of state pilot project where universities oversee charter schools

Northern Kentucky University

The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents has decided the university will not become an authorizer for charter schools in Northern Kentucky.

In front of a full audience at NKU's Student Union, the Board of Regents held its last meeting of the year to discuss the action of becoming a so-called "authorizer" for charter schools in the region.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed House Bill 9, which launched the Kentucky Public Charter School Pilot Project. The bill allowed NKU the option to become an authorizer for one or more new charter schools within certain counties. The authorizer role would mean the university would oversee operations for nearby charter schools.

At the meeting, Board Chair Rich Boehne read the charter school resolution and asked if the board would consider moving ahead with a vote on the proposal. After asking three times if any board member would like to motion for a vote on the resolution, the room remained silent and the board took no further action on the matter.

The NKU Board of Regents does not plan to meet before the resolution's Jan. 1 deadline, meaning the board passed on its opportunity to take part in the charter school program.

Boehne noted the board had no involvement in the creation or wording of House Bill 9 and said that he personally feels the language of the bill was not workable and would make it difficult for the university to become a successful authorizer.

"We're certainly not interested in overseeing any failure," he said.

NKU's Faculty Senate President and Associate Professor John Farrar had similar words and said he was pleased by the board's decision not to invest in a project where failure was a real possibility.

"NKU certainly doesn't have buckets of money sitting around waiting to invest in those types of things," Farrar said. "It's not part of our mission."

The issue of overseeing charter schools comes to the university following the recent discovery of an$18.7 million deficit in NKU's budget.

The NKU board cited a lack of start-up funding and concerns about the financial viability of small-scale charter schools as a few of the main reasons not to move ahead with the state's pilot project.

For now, Farrar says the university should focus on its relationship with local public schools in the area and work on increasing the university's student enrollment.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.