Education

Major education bill moves forward in Kentucky legislature

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, presented SB1 Tuesday to the House Education Committee.
Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, presented SB1 Tuesday to the House Education Committee. Bud Kraft, Legislative Research Commission.

The House Education Committee approved a wide-ranging public education bill Tuesday that would establish a new process for intervening in low-performing schools and would repeal the influence of the controversial Common Core in state classroom academic standards and statewide tests.

The bill, previously approved by the Senate, awaits approval of the full House of Representatives.

Under Senate Bill 1, revisions would be made to the Kentucky academic standards in 2017-18 and every six years after that. Teams of educators from public schools and higher education would recommend changes, with suggestions from citizens.

SB 1 would not repeal the Common Core academic standards until the new standards are rolled out in a staggered fashion, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Wilson, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core standards and subsequently incorporated them into the Kentucky academic standards. Those standards, which have undergone other revisions, define what Kentucky students should learn at each grade level. How the standards are taught is decided by local schools.

Wilson, R-Bowling Green, told the committee he had been working on the bill for two years, seeking the viewpoints of many people who care about education in Kentucky.

Wilson said the bill provided “a skeleton” for the Kentucky Department of Education to fill out as it makes changes to the state’s accountability system.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt testified that the state Department of Education was revising the state’s accountability system and wanted the labels that were used “to mean something to people” and to be an honest reflection of what students know.

Kentucky Coalition of Arts Education representatives said they didn’t want to slow down the progress of the bill but they had some wording suggestions regarding visual and performing arts in the accountability section of the bill.

A representative of the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education asked for more language in the bill that would help advanced learners.

The bill would change the current system by allowing local districts to attempt to turn around a school before the state stepped in, a measure that has raised concerns from critics.

Also under SB 1, a new assessment system would still rate schools but wouldn’t use a single numerical score that ranks schools against each other. It would “avoid an oversimplified ranking of schools by a summative numerical score,” a written overview of the bill handed out at the committee meeting said. Local districts would establish their own evaluation systems for teachers, principals and other staff aligned with a statewide framework. Evaluation results would not be reported to the state education department.

Wilson said the bill would reduce bureaucratic burdens on educators but ensure quality standards. He said it would significantly increase “postsecondary readiness” for college and careers. He said it would return control back to the local districts.

State Reps. Attica Scott, D-Louisville; Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville; and Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, passed on the vote, indicating that they had more questions.

The rest of the committee all voted for the bill.

Charter school bill

Wilson, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday morning that a bill to allow charter schools in Kentucky was not on the agenda for the Senate Education Committee’s Thursday meeting.

“That could change,” Wilson said. “I’m not sure yet.”

HB 520 would allow local school boards and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville to approve and oversee an unlimited number of charter schools in Kentucky. It was approved by the full House of Representatives Friday 56-39 after hours of emotional debate.

Wilson said he did not know when the Senate Education committee would hear the bill, sponsored by state Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, chairman of the House Education Committee..

“We don’t know yet. We’re still reviewing it,” Wilson said. “We just sent out a summary to all members.”

Wilson said he would have to talk to all the members about “where they stand on the bill.”

Does Wilson have concerns about House Bill 520, legislation that was denounced on several counts Monday night by the Kentucky School Boards Association ?

Wilson did not say.

“We are just going to have to get it out to the members (of the Senate Education Committee) right now to see where they might have concerns about it,” he said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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