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Three education bills take center stage during first week of Kentucky’s 2022 General Assembly session

Day one of Kentucky’s 2022 Legislative Session of the General Assembly included the introduction of three education bills: Senate Bill (SB) 1, a bill relating to school curriculum authority and accountability; SB 9, regarding student reading outcomes; and SB 25, an act to extend flexibility to school districts during the second half of the 2021-22 school year.

Senator John Schickel (R-Union), chair of the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee, introduced SB 1. The bill would clarify that final decisions on curriculum be made by school district superintendents. It would also strengthen accountability by broadening superintendent authority to include hiring and firing of school principals.

Currently, Kentucky is the only state in the nation with individual site-based decision-making councils (SBDMs), which influence instructional curriculum and the hiring of school principals. Stakeholders are provided little recourse for concerns and oversight is lacking in regard to SBDMs. They remove authority from local school boards — which consist of elected members from the community who answer to voters within the district. Those board members serve to ensure students receive the education they need to be successful in life. Superintendents are hired and fired by local school boards. SB 1 would provide a stronger foundation by which local education decisions can be made and deficiencies can be addressed.

“This is a game-changer. School districts are responsible to the entire community, and school systems should reflect the values of the community,” Schickel said. “I have sponsored this legislation in the past and hope to see it successfully pass during this session so that more stakeholders in education can have a greater voice in the education of our children.”

Sen. John Schickel

Senator Stephen West (R-Paris), chair of the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, introduced SB 9, also known as the Read to Succeed Act, which is set to systematically improve the quality and delivery of reading instruction to students by implementing supports and interventions across the state for grades K-3. SB 9 sets the goal for each student to be reading at or above grade level by the end of the third grade. This would be accomplished by setting achievable standards and providing greater professional development teachers to equip each with proper tools. The objective of the bill is to streamline reading instruction so every child in the district is on the same playing field and receiving the same reading instruction.

The Read to Succeed Act follows in the footsteps of legislation passed in Mississippi, overhauling reading instruction and propelling the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing scores to some of the highest nationally. This bill would provide a strong foundation in literacy to all students across the state, making intervention for those struggling easier to target and increase the ability to access more students in need at a reduced cost.

“Implementation of the Read to Succeed Act can be instrumental in improving the education we deliver to students. If kids know how to read by third grade, we know that they are more likely to succeed,” West said. “Legislation like SB 9 was passed in Mississippi and yielded great successes, as NAEP testing scores indicate. For years, we have all talked about how important reading is. My message to my fellow lawmakers is, let’s make sure we are preparing students to walk through the doors reading can open for them.”

SB 25, introduced by Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), extends some of the COVID-19 provisions from SB 1 during the 2021 special session. This includes the stabilization of school funding; support for COVID-19 prevention measures; waivers allowing districts to rehire previously retired staff in order to address staffing challenges; allowing districts to waive the 170 instructional days and utilize the equivalent in 1,062 hours to accomplish make up days under certain conditions, and more.

“SB 25 maintains the flexibility school districts need to provide for the holistic wellbeing of students,” Wise said. “We have seen the unintended consequences of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we also understand schools must have tools available to them to meet challenges specific to the districts they are in.”

Legislative Research Commission

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