CLARKSVILLE — If school choice isn’t going anywhere, Kim Knott said Clarksville Community Schools is going to embrace it.
Knott, the superintendent of the district, spoke at an event for the Institute for Quality Education in January. She said as Governor Mike Pence continues his efforts to expand charter school and other school choice measures in Indiana, public schools need to find ways to offer more options to parents, as well.
“Clearly, in Indiana, expansion of charter schools is very important to the powers that be in Indianapolis,” Knott said. “That was clear in this conference. However, because our current governor and general assembly assembly is committed to expanding charter schools, we as public schools have to find a way to be creative and innovative.”
A news release from the National School Choice Week organization said public schools, private schools and charter schools are all trying to strengthen education in the state. Public school districts have often argued against the expansion of charter school and other measures like vouchers, partially because they believe it takes money from their already dwindling budgets.
In that release, Erin Sweitzer, a spokeswoman for IQE said Indiana is a leader in school choice.
“Indiana is on the cutting edge of educational choice for families, and there’s no better time to celebrate that and raise awareness among parents than during National School Choice Week,” Sweitzer said. “Hoosier parents have so many quality options for their kids, whether it’s a traditional public school, a public charter school, a private school, or homeschooling, and this event will bring students, teachers, parents, and advocates together to celebrate those options.”
Knott said she doesn’t disagree with the arguments posed by public schools, but her own district’s effort to offer something different — through a New Tech concept school they opened in 2014 called Renaissance Academy — could be mirrored in other places.
“I’m not opposed to it and I’m not opposed to competition, but it does take money from public schools,” Knott said. “There has been talk about moving away from what we’ve known in public schools as a growth quotient [ in funding]. Every school district gets the same quotient and there’s been some conversations to eliminate that. School districts will only get that based on the county income growth. That’s a very different concept than what we have now.”
But she said that movement is probably going to continue, especially since there’s a possibility that Kentucky governor Matt Bevin will expand school choice options in his own state.
Knott said if those schools start popping up around Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, some of that expansion could bleed over to Southern Indiana. If that’s the case, schools here will have to find a way to compete.
“I do think that if you get charter legislation in Louisville and it hits the JCPS schools, I think you’ll see some folks wanting to come across the bridge to set up charters, just because of the convenience issue,” Knott said.
Either way, she said as schools are more and more involved in expenses like advertising campaigns and marketing teams to sell their schools to the public, others in the area will have to find ways to keep competing with charter and private schools.
“We had to do it,” Knott said. “We had to come up with something innovative. The economy was calling for it, we were losing students, we weren’t sure our students would be as successful as they needed to be if we didn’t do something different. We had to say ‘come look at this.’ It might be something to consider if you can’t afford a providence or if you don’t want to make it all the way out to Rock Creek.”