Kentucky lawmakers still wrangling over how schools should deal with snow days

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 14, 2014 

Christmas Weather

John Michael Randolph, 6 years old; Brecken Randolph, 9, and Kristie Randolph took advantage of the snowstorm Wednesday in Western Kentucky to go sledding at Atkinson Park in Henderson. (AP Photo/The Gleaner, Mike Lawrence)

MIKE LAWRENCE — ASSOCIATED PRESS

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers hope to finalize a plan by early next week to provide relief to school districts that have missed multiple weeks of school this winter because of bad weather.

The state House voted 82-8 Friday to approve House Bill 410, which would let each school superintendent eliminate up to 10 days of school.

However, Senate President Robert Stivers said Friday that giving a blank check to school districts to waive 10 school days is not appropriate.

"It's more complicated than that," said Stivers, R-Manchester.

He noted that some school districts, especially those in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, have missed more than 30 days while some have missed less than 10. Stivers also said some school districts have longer instructional days than others.

Maybe the best approach, Stivers said, is a type of "graduated" relief for the school districts.

For the last week or so, lawmakers have been trying to agree on provisions in the so-called 'snow days" legislation.

On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee hastily approved a new version of House Bill 211, which would allow each school district to get a waiver for as many as 10 days from the Kentucky Department of Education after having missed 10 days due to weather and having used up other scheduled makeup days.

However, some districts have built 20 make-up days into their calendars, which means the Senate bill would apply only to those districts if they have missed 30 or more days of school. In Fayette County, which has missed 13 days, the official school calendar includes make-up days that stretch through June 13, so the proposed legislation would have no effect.

By Thursday afternoon, Senate leaders had sent the bill back to committee and promised to find another solution. On Friday, the Senate Education Committee postponed a planned meeting to consider a snow days bill until 3 p.m. Monday.

In addition to approving a "Band-Aid" for schools this year, Stivers said Friday that he hopes the legislature and the Department of Education can also devise a relief plan to use in future years. He noted that each school day costs the state about $17 million.

Both Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Friday the legislature wants to act quickly on a remedy to give school districts across the state time to plan their schedules for the remainder of the school year.

"The districts need answers as soon as possible," said Stumbo. "If we fool around here and wait until April 15 to give them answers as to what relief they might be granted, I don't know how much good that is going to do them."

If Stivers has a proposal, said Stumbo, "we'll certainly welcome it."

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said in a floor speech that legislators should come up with a school calendar that has more flexibility in it for days missed because of bad weather.

"We have a responsibility to the taxpayers," he said.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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