Fall Regional Meetings to seek members' input on legislative issues
Kentucky School Advocate
By Matt McCartyStaff writer
Attention, school board members: KSBA wants to hear from you.
That is the theme of the 2017 Fall Regional Meetings, which will revolve around legislative issues and what the association’s membership thinks about those issues.
“School board members provide an important perspective because as the elected liasion between the community and its schools, they have a unique opportunity to see first-hand the impact legislative decisions have on Kentucky students and families,” said Kerri Schelling, KSBA’s executive director. “They have a critical voice that needs to be heard and KSBA can help them do that.”
KSBA Governmental Relations Director Eric Kennedy said he’s heard from several members who have said they don’t know enough about where KSBA’s legislative agenda comes from. “‘Who decides what it is? Who decides what our priorities are that you’re going to advocate for at the General Assembly?’ That is an issue that we are hoping to address by the way we have restructured the Regional Meeting programs this year because it’s critical.
“We as KSBA staff don’t want to tell school board members what should be important to them and what changes legislators should make that involve school boards. It should be the other way around,” Kennedy said. “That’s why we structured it this way – to hear from all members across the state what they need us to be advocating for. That’s really important.”
Three components of Regional Meetings
This summer, KSBA sent a 29-question legislative survey to all board members and superintendents in the state to find out what issues are important to them. Each Regional Meeting will have an approximately one-hour program based around those legislative issues.
During the first portion of the program, KSBA will present the results of the survey. Kennedy said KSBA received more responses to the survey “than probably ever before.” Some of the responses were surprising, he said, and “will directly inform our agenda on those issues.”
The last two questions on the survey were open-ended, designed to determine which issues not mentioned in the survey are important to members. “It was a great response to that. People really gave a lot of thought to it and had long responses, bringing up issues. Some of those were surprising so we’re going to talk about those,” Kennedy said.
The middle part of the program will dive deeper into a couple of the issues discussed in the survey. KSBA will use its instant electronic polling devices to get “more detail about what members think about some of these issues,” he said.
One issue that will be highlighted is school council reforms, which Kennedy said will be a major issue in the 2018 session of the General Assembly.
Pension reform and budget issues will also be discussed.
“The governor will likely call a special session to reform the pension systems during the second half of October, right in the midst of our meetings. If this happens, the pension topic may become our center of attention,” Kennedy said.
The program will conclude with 20-30 minutes of open discussion.
“We’ve gotten some feedback from school board members that we don’t always give them a great opportunity to have discussions among themselves, to network and to meet and discuss these issues across their districts,” Kennedy said. “If there’s some issue that’s weighing on a member that no one’s brought up and they want to throw it out there to see if anyone else is having this problem, or wants to throw out an idea to see if anybody else is interested in helping to push for that, we’re just going to kind of open it up with staff facilitating the discussion.
“I think that will be a real positive aspect of the regional meetings this year.”
KSBA has again invited all state legislators to the regional meetings. With legislative issues being the big topic of this year’s program. “We hope legislators are there to be a part of the discussion and to respond to school board members and to hear what members are thinking and looking to have changed,” Kennedy said.
KSBA’s First and Second region meetings have already taken place. The other 10 regional meetings continue Sept. 7 in Lee County and conclude Nov. 2 in Corbin.