FRANKFORT — The House Education Committee approved a waiver for schools that have been closed too many days because of bad weather, but several members said they would like to see a better, long-term solution.
"We need to send a message that spring break is not more important than being in school," said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, who testified Tuesday.
House Bill 487 would require Holliday to grant a school district's request to waive up to 10 makeup days if the district has missed more than 20 days. Between flu and heavy snow, many Eastern Kentucky school districts missed more than 20 days this year.
The bill applies only to this school year. Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said a more permanent solution is needed.
"We have to change the culture in Kentucky," he said. "Other states are going long er, and we're cutting days."
Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, R-Fort Wright, voted against the bill, saying she also had voted against the House budget bill because it cut two instructional days from the school year.
"I don't feel as though I could in good conscience support the bill as it is," she said.
Another measure, House Bill 597, would allow much more flexibility for school districts to plan their calendars, including how to make up days with longer hours or more days. It has been sent to the education committee, but has not been debated. The Kentucky Education Association opposes the bill.
"Our fear is that teachers' time will be further abused" said KEA President Sharron Oxendine.
The education committee also approved a plan to allow high school students who meet high academic standards to graduate in three years and spend their senior year in a two-year or four-year college. Funding would be transferred to colleges and universities to support the students.
"A lot of our students are ready for college work in the junior year," said Sen. Ken Winters, the sponsor of Senate Bill 67. "If they meet the requirements, this allows students with the desire and ability to move forward at a faster rate."
The bill has been approved by the Senate and would go to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature if approved by the full House.
Students would have to complete at least 18 high school credits and have a 3.2 GPA to be eligible for early graduation. They also would have to meet college standards on the ACT test.
Most education groups support the bill because they expect it will apply only to a very small group of students.
However, Brent McKim of the Jefferson County Teachers Association opposed the bill, saying it could drain needed funds from high schools.