Kentucky legislative leaders reach agreement on snow days relief plan for schools

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 26, 2014 

FRANKFORT — House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Wednesday night on how to provide relief to school districts that have missed days due to winter's snow.

Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, said the new plan was agreed upon by all members of the House-Senate conference committee tasked with providing relief to districts trying to make up snow days. It is to be presented to all lawmakers Thursday.

Givens said the plan sets June 6 as the last day for school districts that try to reach 1,062 hours of instruction in their academic year. The 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.

State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday would have oversight of districts' good-faith efforts to try to reach the state-mandated 1,062 hours, said Givens.

He added that there might be as many as 10 school districts that will struggle to reach 1,062 hours.

Last week, the negotiating committee had called for ending the school year for all districts by June 11. That idea collapsed this week, forcing the committee to go back to the drawing board.

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

Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo said they were pleased that the conference committee was unanimous about the latest relief plan for missed school days.

The plan took shape as the chambers' leaders worked to finalize a $20.3 billion state budget.

Stivers and Stumbo seemed somewhat optimistic about the first day of negotiations on trying to iron out differences between the two chambers on a two-year state budget.

Stivers, R-Manchester, was adamant that the budget conference committee would finish its work by Saturday night to allow the two chambers to vote on a compromise budget Monday, the last scheduled day to approve legislation.

He said lawmakers then would stick to the schedule of returning April 14 and 15 to consider any vetoes by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

"We're following the schedule. We're leaving here Monday," Stivers said.

But Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the legislature could vote next Wednesday on a compromise budget and still have April 15 to consider any gubernatorial vetoes. The state constitution requires the session to end by April 15.

The budget conference committee on Wednesday started the tedious process of comparing the differences between the two chambers. It is to resume its work at 10 a.m. Thursday.

During the first hour of the negotiations, Stivers noted that the budget for the state legislature had $18.5 million in reserves. He said cuts in other state agencies did not seem appropriate when the legislature had so much money on hand.

But House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said the legislative branch did not have any way to raise money, as the executive branch does.

There was no immediate agreement on the budgets for the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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