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State Board of Education Upholds Denial of River Cities Charter School

The Kentucky Board of Education on Tuesday voted to uphold a decision by the Newport board of education to reject an application to operate a charter school in Northern Kentucky.

The River Cities Academy hopes to operate in Newport and to attract students from that school district, as well as from Covington, Ludlow, Bellevue, Dayton, and Fort Thomas independent schools.

The application to open a charter school was filed on Oct. 30 with the Newport Independent Board of Education by Lynn Schaber and Evelyn Pence, acting on behalf of River Cities Academy Inc. It proposed opening a K-8 charter school.

On Dec. 26, the Newport board voted to deny the charter school application. On Jan. 23, River Cities Academy, Inc. appealed the decision to the KBE.

In its final order, the KBE explained that the charter application submitted did not contain an adequate financial plan for the first five years of operating the charter school. For the first year, the order read, River Cities Academy, Inc. projected a deficit of $529,957. The majority of the assumed revenue was public funding based upon the school’s average daily attendance.

The final order said that the funding mechanism for public charter schools expired on June 30, 2018, so an assumption that the majority of the revenue for the school would come from public funds was flawed.

“The Appellant’s budget assumes that the majority of its funding will come from public funds through an ADA allocation; however, under Kentucky law, there is no such current funding formula for public charter schools,” the order read.

The final order also stated, “other funding sources projected by the Appellant include, for example, federal and state grant funding as well as direct contributions. However, the Appellant does not include within its charter school application evidence of securing such grant and donor funding.

“Thus, the Appellant has not demonstrated the ability to operate in a ‘fiscally sound matter,’ pursuant to KRS 160.1594(7)(b), as its budget is built on financially unsound assumptions regarding the receipt of public and private funds necessary to sustain its public charter school.”

The final order also found that the academy’s plan to operate at a deficit the first year, “does not adhere to ‘generally accepted accounting principles’ as required by (state law).”

Before the unanimous vote to adopt the final order, KBE Vice Chair Lu Young thanked representatives from both River Cities Academy and Newport Independent for working through the appeal process with the board.

This was the first charter school application and the first appeal filed since the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation in 2017 that allowed public charter schools to be formed.

“I know that none of you take this process for granted nor have you taken it lightly,” she said.

-Staff report