The Kentucky Supreme Court stated nearly 30 years ago that education “is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.”
Senate Bill 1, which passed the General Assembly without a single dissenting vote and has now been signed into law, is a testament to this bedrock principle. The effort and process undertaken to draft, debate and enact this far-reaching policy is itself a testament to our democratic legislative system in its finest form.
What will SB 1 accomplish? Some have called this bill the “let teachers teach” bill, and in many respects that accurately describes its overall goal.
The bill implements the federal Every Student Succeeds Act in our state, and in so doing returns local decision-making authority to our state and local school leaders. It maintains our rigorous academic standards, for which we are held in high regard nationally, while ensuring input from the public and educators will drive any future reforms to these standards and the assessment system built upon them.
It enhances the state and local partnership through which our common school system operates, particularly in the area of providing targeted assistance to those schools demonstrating greater needs. Most importantly, it keeps the focus on student learning, and on the educational opportunities that we all, working together, strive to provide to each and every child in Kentucky.
Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, along with the Senate Majority Caucus and the entire General Assembly, are to be commended for their work on this bill, and in particular for the open, transparent and collaborative process followed. SB 1 passed unanimously in large part because of the proactive effort made to diligently seek input, advice and counsel from numerous constituent groups across the spectrum of the public education community, and especially from parents and from educators.
Last year, Wilson emailed all certified teachers in the state to seek input . Hundreds of comments were received. During the session, he actively sought the input of each of our associations, and others. He listened to our comments, and amended the bill in numerous ways to address many of our concerns.
Wilson, as chairman of the Senate Education Committee, held town hall meetings to discuss the bill, as well as additional meetings of the committee exclusively for the purpose of publicly vetting its provisions prior to a vote. This is truly the way a bill should become law, and as a result SB 1 is undoubtedly a stronger, more robust and effective expression of education policy.
All of this work, however, is merely prologue.
Now is the time for all of us to begin implementing this transformative policy, which will bring success to our children and our classrooms only if we maintain the trust and cooperation that have been the force behind SB 1 throughout this legislative session.
Jennifer L. Carroll is president of Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Stephanie Winkler is president of Kentucky Education Association; Rachel Yarbrough is president of Kentucky Association of School Superintendents; and David Webster is president of Kentucky School Boards Association.