Legislative sessions end, advocacy does not
Kentucky School Advocate
By Kerri Schelling
KSBA Executive Director
The 2022 regular session of the General Assembly is behind us. As the dust settles and as tempers self-regulate, the Kentucky School Boards Association will continue our robust advocacy efforts on behalf of our members to forecast the impact of legislation pushed through this session. Certain takeaways from #KYGA22 stand out.
Adequate education funding is a perennial legislative priority for KSBA, so naturally we are pleased to see a budget with long-overdue increases in SEEK dollars, state support for full-day kindergarten and increased funding for critical student services and transportation. KSBA will not stop advocating for even more funding until we are fully satisfied the state has met its obligation to fund an adequate system of common schools. We are grateful to legislators for taking positive steps, but we challenge them to continue to move the ball downfield to address the needs of our schools – fully funding transportation and ramping up base SEEK funding to be on par with 1990 levels when considering inflation, just to name a couple.
Likewise, local control is fundamental to school board service, so we welcome the rebalanced authority provided to districts for principal hiring and curriculum alignment as prescribed in Senate Bill 1. We loudly supported such provisions in the originally filed bill to help ensure effective district-level accountability and make more consistent the ways we select all district personnel. Unfortunately, while it is all too common for major bills to be injected with remnants of others during the homestretch of legislative sessions, KSBA took major issue with language added to the bill. Among other things, the new provisions eroded local control and cherry-picked an individual district for state-level solutions.
Locally elected school boards levy taxes to bridge the gap between available state support and the true cost of high-quality public education for every student who comes through our doors. By creating a public funding mechanism for charter schools, House Bill 9 usurps authority of how those limited dollars are allocated by local communities, especially in Kentucky’s most populous districts. This law will most likely be challenged in court. We support our public schools having the flexibility to implement the unique programming they need without syphoning of local funds, local authority or local accountability.
Without question, public education took center stage in the 2022 General Assembly. Approximately 31% of the bills and resolutions that were filed would have some direct or indirect impact on our public schools and, more specifically, the work of school boards. And KSBA tracked all 394 of them. In the end, Kentucky public education saw both significant legislative victories and notable setbacks. But what stakeholders didn’t always see was the tireless work public education advocates put into every bill whether or not it was ultimately successful.
When it comes to KSBA’s advocacy efforts, most of what we do is behind the scenes. Much like an iceberg, there is a part of our work each year that is easily visible – weekly written and video updates during the legislative session, testimony before committees and appearances on KET, etc. But just as most of an iceberg is below the water’s surface, most of our work takes place out of the public eye or when the legislature isn’t in session – e.g., reading and researching issues, meeting with legislators, drafting bill language, determining legal implications and updating policies.
Legislative sessions come and go. Convene and adjourn. But our advocacy for quality, equitable public education for all on behalf of school boards does not stop.
The legislative session may be over, but our work is far from complete.