Roundup of Kentucky Education Legislation | Kentucky

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FRANKFURT — The recently concluded legislative session has brought education to the forefront of Kentucky politics in an election year for statewide offices.

Lawmakers approved legislation aimed at addressing teacher shortages, though the Republican-controlled General Assembly never considered Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s proposal to provide school staff with 5% pay increases.

The education debates that have raised the most heat have been about gender and sexuality and seem likely to continue as Kentuckians elect a governor.

The legislation strengthened parents’ rights to challenge school materials and programs they deem obscene and to know what and when their children are being taught about sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. Students in the fifth grade or below cannot receive any sex education, as a result of Senate Bill 150, which also prohibits any studies that explore gender identity or sexual orientation. The new law enforces bathroom policies for transgender students in public schools and guarantees the right of school staff to mistreat students.

The legislature increased oversight of the Kentucky Department of Education but stopped short of increasing oversight of teachers who engaged in sexual misconduct with students. The Senate has never voted on a House bill aimed at ensuring that schools are informed of any past allegations of sex against teacher job applicants and the results of any investigations.

The debate over what’s appropriate for little eyes now seems to be turning to local school districts. Under newly enacted Senate Law 5, school boards can face a tight deadline to hear complaints about materials, programs, or events that parents argue “appeal to prior interest in sex” or “clearly abuse prevailing norms as to what is suitable for minors.”

According to Josh Schulta, director of communications for the Kentucky School Boards Association, this legislature’s educational focus—and potential shift to the local level—fits with a trend that extends beyond Kentucky. “Increasing national interest in public education coincided with the spread of the pandemic,” he wrote in an email. An example of this is increased attendance at local school board meetings.

Much of that interest is driven by how lawmakers handle contentious issues; Masking and other Covid policies, CRT (Critical Race Theory), challenge books and curricula, policies on LGBTQ students, parental rights, etc,” Scholta said.

But, he added, the challenges facing schools are greater than just these issues.

“However, the highlight of education and the policy solutions decided can also be attributed to a system that is going through a crisis. Not far from the pandemic, there is a great recovery ahead. There is a literacy crisis. There is a teacher shortage crisis. There is a crisis of financing sustainable education. These were the problems Existed before 2020 but got exponentially worse due to Covid. They are not quick fixes.”

Here is the status of some of the education bills at the end of the 2023 legislative session:

transgender minors

It was originally introduced by Sen. Max Wise, the running mate of Republican gubernatorial nominee Kelly Craft, as legislation that would prevent the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) from issuing guidelines about the use of transgender pronouns for students and require schools to disclose mental health services that students receive, Senate Bill 150 evolved to include provisions from House Bill 470 that prohibited gender-affirming Medicare for trans minors.

The controversial guidelines have since been removed from the KDE website.

Bashir vetoed SB 150, but the veto was overridden by the General Assembly in the closing days of the session.

Education Commissioner Jason Glass issued a statement after lawmakers passed the bill, denouncing it as “sweeping and harmful” and vowing that KDE will host a fall summit to “support LGBTQIA+ people and youth.”

Glass’s comments were criticized by some Republicans, including Speaker of the House Pro Tim David Meade, R-Stanford, and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the Republican nominee for governor.

Education commissioner

Also in response to criticism of Glass, Senate Bill 107 subjects the appointment and reappointment of the Kentucky Commissioner of Education to Senate confirmation.

Bashir vetoed the bill, saying it “politicized” the education commissioner’s appointment process. General Assembly veto power of veto.

The commissioner is chosen by the Kentucky Board of Education. Its members are confirmed by the Senate.

Lou Young, president of the Kentucky Board of Education, issued a statement during the session saying the bill would “reflect the progress we’ve made over the past three decades and take the state back to a time when Kentucky public school leadership was defined by political capital and connections, not professional expertise.” .

Following Bashir’s veto, sponsor Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling-Green, issued a statement saying, “The governor desires to maintain as much control as possible over the Kentucky Department of Education to continue to indoctrinate students and cause gender confusion rather than concern themselves with their ability to read and write.” And learn arithmetic. Given the abject failure of the current governor and commissioner on learning outcomes for Kentucky students, we must ensure legislative oversight and confirmation of the next education commissioner.”

An attack on teachers unions?

The Kentucky Education Association denounced Senate Bill 7 as an attack on educators. The new law will stop automatic payroll deductions for members’ dues to several types of public employee unions except for police and fire organizations, which have been exempted.

“Rather than focusing on the real problems affecting our public schools, such as teacher shortages, professional wages and student learning conditions, the General Assembly has turned its attention to trying to weaken public sector unions under the guise of “managing payroll systems,” said KEA President Eddie Campbell.

Senate Bill 7 is clearly not about managing payroll systems. It’s also not about protecting public school students, public educators, or public school resources. But it is very clear that it is about politicians protecting themselves from accountability for bad policies and misguided priorities.”

In his veto letter, Beshear, who received support from teachers and labor in his first race for governor, said the bill was “an attack on the unions and teachers’ associations that support and protect hard-working Kentucky families.” General Assembly veto power of veto.

The sponsor, Sen. Robbie Mills, R. Henderson, said the bill was necessary to stop collecting political contributions from union members.

Complaint process for “obscene” books and software

Legislation requiring local school boards to establish complaint processes about “harmful to minors” materials and programs became law without Beshear’s signature.

Supporters of the fifth bill in the Senate said it would protect children from lewd material in classrooms, but detractors said it could lead to book bans.

The Kentucky Department of Education must establish a model complaint process that meets the new requirements by May 1. School boards must adopt their local policy by July 1.

Some Kentucky school districts already have policies in place to address controversial issues or grievances from community members, Scholta said. The bill goes further by enshrining requirements for resolving parental grievances.

Written complaints are submitted to the principal, who must review them within seven days. Within 10 days, the principal will notify the person who filed the complaint of the decisions and steps to be taken. To appeal the principal’s decision, the complainant may contact the local school board. Within 30 days, the board must review the complaint and hold a general meeting to make a decision. Within 15 business days of the decision, board members’ votes must be published on the school board’s website and in the local registration newspaper.

Schulta added that the KSBA will work with KDE and school districts in the coming weeks to prepare guidance on or before May 1 and ensure that school boards have appropriate policies in place by July 1.

Responding to the shortage of teachers

Beshear signed the Republican-backed response to Kentucky’s teacher shortage. The primary sponsor of House Bill 319, Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, said it won’t solve all parts of the problem but it’s the first step in doing so and it can be built upon in later legislative sessions.

The bill seeks to hire more public school teachers and increase their retention while not making significant appropriations during a legislative session for the off-budget year.

establishes the Interstate Licensing of Teachers to allow teachers certified in other states to teach in Kentucky; requests the Kentucky Department of Education to update its online job posting system, the Kentucky Employment Service System for Teachers; removes the limit on state-funded teacher grants and allows amounts to be set by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority based on available funds; It directs a review of alternative certification pathways for teachers.

The Kentucky Association of School Administrators supported Tipton’s bill.

Bill 88 that Beshear supported, which included a 5% pay increase for every teacher in public schools and public kindergartens, did not move out of a House committee in this session. Sponsored by House Deputy Speaker Derek Graham, D-Frankfort.

Sexual misconduct by teachers

Legislation was passed intended to make it more difficult for teachers found responsible for sexual misconduct to start working in a different school district, but they did not get a vote in the Senate.

Tipton, who is also the sponsor of House Bill 288, said he balances protecting Kentucky students who may face sexual abuse in schools with due process in investigations. He said he introduced the bill in response to a report by the Lexington Herald Leader that showed sexual misconduct was the most common reason Kentucky teachers’ licenses were revoked or suspended between 2016 and 2021.

Classroom discipline

Beshear has signed House Bill 538, which aims to address the issues teachers face with disciplining students, said Rep. Timmy Trott, R-McKee.

Truett told the Senate Education Committee that the bill would create other options for school administrators who respond to students who disrupt and threaten the safety of others in the classroom.

To discipline these students, local districts could adopt alternative programs, such as virtual learning at home or in another school setting, rather than expelling them. School boards must expel students for at least 12 months if they make threats that endanger staff or other students.

Students who are removed from the classroom three times within 30 days will be “chronically disruptive”. can be suspended.

Religious freedom

Bashir signed House Bill 547, which sponsors say is necessary to protect public school employees’ First Amendment right to religious freedom.

The new law protects school district employees who express their faith or sponsor students’ religious activities from coercion by government officials, Rep. Chris Fugitt, R-Chavez, told the Senate Education Committee.

He said the bill stems from a situation in Washington where a high school football coach was fired after leading his team in prayer on the field after games. Coach Joseph Kennedy was recently reinstated after the US Supreme Court ruled that his connections were protected by the First Amendment.