FRANKFURT, Kentucky — 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 educational debates that raised the most heat were about sex, sexuality, and appearance likely to continue While the people of Kentucky 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 and below cannot receive any sex education as a result 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. Recently under one year Senate Bill 5School boards can face a tight deadline for hearing complaints about materials, programs, or events that parents assert “appeal to a primary interest in sex” or “clearly abuse prevailing norms regarding what is appropriate 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:
It was originally introduced by Senator Max Wise, the running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft, as legislation that would prevent the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) from issuing guidelines about the use of transgender student pronouns and Require schools to disclose mental health services students receive, Senate Bill 150 evolved To include provisions from House Bill 470 that prohibit gender-affirming Medicare for trans minors.
Controversial directive It has since been removed From the KDE website.
Basher objected to SB 150, but the General Assembly Override the veto In the last days of the cycle.
Education Commissioner Jason Glass issued a statement After lawmakers passed the bill, they denounced it as “sweeping and harmful” and pledged that Keddie would host a fall summit “in support of LGBT people, youth and youth.”
Some Republicans Glass’s comments were criticizedincluding Speaker of the House Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the Republican nominee for governor.
Also in response to criticisms of Glass, Senate Bill 107 The appointment and reappointment of the Kentucky Commissioner of Education is subject to Senate confirmation.
Bashir veto 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, He issued a statement during the session Saying that the bill “will reverse 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 experience.”
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 it Senate Bill 7 as an attack on teachers. 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 ‘running 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 messageBeshear, 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 complaints processes about materials and programs that are “harmful to minors” It became law without Bashir’s signature.
Supporters Senate Bill 5 He said it would protect children from lewd material in class, but critics said it could lead to books being banned.
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 main sponsor of House Bell 319Rep. 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 School Administrators Association Supported the Tipton bill.
supported by Bashir House 88, which included a 5% pay increase for every public school and public kindergarten teacher, did not move from House Committee 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 288He said it was balanced Protecting Kentucky students who may be sexually assaulted in schools With due process in investigations. He said he introduced the bill in response to a report Lexington Herald Leader Showing sexual misconduct was the most common reason for Kentucky teachers’ licenses to be revoked or suspended between 2016 and 2021.
Bashir signed House Bell 538That aims to address the issues teachers face with disciplining students, said sponsor Rep. Timmy Truett, R. Mackey.
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.
Bashir signed to become law House Bell 547 Which sponsors say is necessary to protect public school employees’ First Amendment right to religious freedom.
The new law protects school employees who express their beliefs 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, Recently restored After the US Supreme Court ruled that his connections were protected by the First Amendment.
This article is republished under a Creative Commons license Kentucky lanternIt is part of the States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus backed by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke with questions: [email protected]. Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook And Twitter.
McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.