Note: This issue went to press before the final days of the legislative session, when several major issues were still in the balance, including issuance of bonds to shore up the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.
By Madelynn Coldiron
Raising awareness of the achievement gap issue in Kentucky schools was one positive aspect of the 2015 session of the General Assembly, said Hope McLaughlin, KSBA’s director of Government Relations.
A pair of bills designed to address aspects of the achievement gap were in limbo at press time, but regardless of their ultimate fate, she said, “There’s a lot of interest in looking into the issues that educators are facing in how to move the needle in addressing the achievement gap.”
McLaughlin thinks the increased attention on the issue bodes well for the 2016 session, which will tackle the biennial state budget.
“Resources and people are always the most important things that students can have in terms of helping them succeed, so with the next session being a budget session and having all these achievement gap issues fresh in the minds of legislators, I think that we might be able see something go toward addressing achievement gaps in the budget,” she said.
McLaughlin expects continuing attention during the interim, not only on achievement gaps, but on funding, in light of a series of recommendations stemming from a Council for Better Education study.
Among the education-related bills that won passage in the 2015 session, the range was diverse, from broadband improvement and snow day relief to computer programming and school “safe zones.”
House Bill 152 – A telecommunications bill that could have the effect of expanding broadband access in rural areas, which will help students working on schoolwork on their home computers.
HB 232 – Establishes scholastic framework – dual credit, diploma, ability to earn Kentucky Education Excellence Scholarship money – for students attending the residential high school, Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead State University.
HB 234 – Sets quality standards and a schedule for implementing a rating system for early childhood centers, including those operated by public schools.
HB 380 – Prohibits the abuse of a classified school employee who is on the job, echoing an existing law that applies to certified employees.
Senate Bill 16 – Allows computer programming classes to count as math or science credit; the final version does not include foreign language credit.
SB 39 – Requires public schools to consult local and state safety officials, the National Weather Service and FEMA guiding principles in establishing weather-safe zones in their building.
SB 119 – Requires the state education department to approve a list of training options on child abuse and neglect prevention, recognition and reporting. School boards would be required to choose from the list for training for administrators, certified personnel and coaches. Also allows school districts to ask for a waiver this year from the mandatory 1,062 instructional hours if they can’t make up days lost to weather by June 5.
What did not pass
HB 21 – authorizes private school students to participate in public school interscholastic extracurricular activity if the private school doesn’t offer it.
HB 34 – allows waivers or modification of the state assessment system for districts of innovation.
HB 174 – authorizes charter schools in Kentucky; and SB 8, setting up a limited pilot charter school program in Fayette and Jefferson county districts.
SB 9 – exempts public school district construction projects from current prevailing wage laws.
SB 19 – extends special education services to students through the age of 22 (currently 21).
SB 110 – allows high school students to use KEES money for dual-credit courses.
SB 129 – requires schools to schedule the first student attendance day no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26.
SB 135 – limits the authority of school councils, giving them a more advisory role.