Snow makeup days compromise collapses in Kentucky legislature

jbrammer@herald-leader.com,By Jack BrammerMarch 24, 2014 

When winter weather forces Fayette schools to close, families will get automatic notification by phone.

CHARLES BERTRAM — LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

FRANKFORT — A tentative plan to provide school districts and families with relief from snow makeup days collapsed in the Kentucky legislature Monday.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, expressed disappointment and said new House and Senate negotiators may have to be appointed by the two chambers if they hope to craft a compromise plan.

When House and Senate negotiators left the Capitol Friday, leaders of the effort said they had come up with a working proposal that would be presented to party caucuses in both chambers Monday. However, the two sides ultimately couldn't agree on when schools must adjourn for the year.

The tentative plan produced by the negotiating committee called for ending the school year for all districts by June 11, including those that have not reached the state-mandated 1,062 hours of instruction in the academic year.

Also under the tentative plan, school districts could extend the length of their remaining days in an attempt to reach 1,062 hours of instruction as long as no school day included more than seven instructional hours. It also would have forbidden holding classes on Saturday.

Some school districts, especially those in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, have missed more than 30 days of school because of winter weather.

The lead negotiator for the Senate, Bowling Green Republican Mike Wilson, said the Senate Republican caucus on Monday decided to change the end date in the tentative plan to June 13 so that more instruction could be offered.

"The House then came back and wanted it to be June 1, like it did in last week's initial conference committee negotiations," Wilson said. "The tentative agreement collapsed. At this point, there is no relief for the school districts."

The lead negotiator for the House, West Liberty Democrat John Will Stacy, informed his colleagues in a House floor speech that the Senate wanted to change the working proposal.

"The moral of the story," Stacy said, "is that we don't have any agreement whatsoever to provide relief to our school districts."

Stacy added, "Until they want to sit down and talk about real relief, there's really nothing to talk about."

Speaker Stumbo said he was "shocked" by the Senate's action. "Maybe new conference members could get something going," he said.

Gov. Steve Beshear said earlier Monday that he was ready to sign into law a plan to provide relief from snow makeup days as soon as it appears on his desk from the legislature.

Beshear said he was concerned that all school districts will not have the instructional days needed, but noted "this winter was a particularly bad one."

The governor expressed hope that a contingency plan can be in place for next school year "to make sure we don't run into this situation again."

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

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