Madison County educator files charter school application. It could be first in Kentucky

The operator of a Richmond private school has filed an application with the local school board to open a charter school in Madison County for the 2024-2025 school year.

Although the framework for charter schools was established in 2017 with the passage of House Bill 520, the General Assembly did not provide any funding for charter schools until last year. None have ever opened in Kentucky.

Kentucky Department of Education spokesperson Toni Konz Tatman said Thursday she is unaware of any application in Kentucky to open a charter school other than the one in Madison County.

Gus LaFontaine, who heads the LaFontaine Preparatory School in Richmond for PreK-5th grade students, wanted to open a charter school in 2018 but decided not to move ahead because there wasn’t a funding mechanism at that time. That changed when House Bill 9 was approved last year.

“We believe that all children deserve the education that serves them best. We also believe every family should be able to make that choice. We want to empower all parents to do that. Even those not financially capable,” LaFontaine said in a text message Thursday.

LaFontaine has submitted a K-8 charter school application for the 2024-25 school year to Madison County Schools.

The application outlines a plan to offer class sizes that are 20% smaller and instructional time that is 20% greater than Kentucky standards, he said.

“It also includes our goal to pay teaches 20% more than regional averages,” he said.

LaFontaine said there are more than 7,700 charter schools across 45 states, but none in Kentucky.

“It’s time for Kentucky families to enjoy the same educational opportunities that others have,” he said.

Tatman said that as required by state law, the Kentucky Board of Education received notice that a charter school application has been made to the Madison County Board of Education.

Erin Stewart, a spokesperson for Madison County Schools, confirmed that the application was filed with that school board.

Earlier in January, a non-profit corporation that represents public school districts filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Department of Education over House Bill 9. In addition to outlining funding for charter schools, the bill required two pilot program charter schools to open — in Jefferson County and Northern Kentucky — in 2023.

Tatman, however, said as of January 26, she is not aware of any applications for those pilots that would open for the 2023-2024 school year. The Courier-Journal first reported on the lack of applications Thursday.

Jefferson County’s charter school application deadline for the 2023-2024 year has ended, the school district website said, and in Northern Kentucky the deadline is July 1, 2024.

In the case of the Jefferson County Board of Education, the statute does not provide an outcome in the event there are no applications, Tatman said.

The non-profit corporation, the Council for Better Education, is asking the Franklin Circuit Court to prevent the implementation of House Bill 9, saying it’s unconstitutional.