A Look at the 2019 Session: Education Developments Encouraging
Although the results of the recently concluded session of the General Assembly were limited, the Prichard Committee was encouraged by several education-related developments.
Chief among them: the passage of the School Safety and Resiliency Act, the product of a year-long effort by a bipartisan group that included a member of the committee’s Student Voice Team, Nasim Mohammadzadeh.
Ensuring that citizens’ voices were heard was the focus of the Committee staff’s strong presence at the Capitol. We testified against a bill that would have authorized tax credits for contributions to private-school scholarships. We also partnered with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to ensure legislation did not unintentionally lower the state’s academic standards, including postsecondary readiness.
Debate and protests over public pension proposals once again commanded center stage, but there was some room for a renewed interest in such critical issues as third-grade literacy. We are hopeful that the future will bring a more stable environment for policy discussions, providing space for productive discussions about the investments we need to support our schools and educators.
Kentucky will need strong legislative champions for public education – early childhood through postsecondary – as we enter the next budget cycle during the 2020 legislative session. The Committee stands ready to work as a partner in shaping this critical discussion going forward.
Here is a closer look at some of the key issues the Committee targeted during the session:
- Senate Bill 1 – School Safety and Resiliency Act – Passed & Signed by Governor
- Senate Bill 1 was the consensus vehicle for school safety following a year of work by the School Safety Working Group. It passed both chambers overwhelmingly and was signed into law by the Governor on March 11th. Members of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team worked with the legislations’ sponsors to ensure that student perspectives are more fully integrated into school safety processes.
- Senate Bill 3– School-Based Decision-Making Councils – Did Not Pass
- Senate Bill 3, an effort to reshape the structure and authority of school-based decision-making councils, was not considered in the House after passing the Senate 23-13.
- House Bill 205– Scholarship Tax Credits – Did Not Pass
- House Bill 205 was not called for a vote in committee but was heard for discussion only, where the Committee testified against it. There were concerns the tax credits might be rolled into a larger tax bill that was passed, but that did not happen. This issue is likely to re-emerge in future sessions.
- House Bill 272 (Committee Substitute) – Early Literacy and Numeracy Education – Did Not Pass
- House Bill 272 passed the House 86-12 but was not considered in the Senate. We expect significant work to be done in the interim with the goal of developing a consensus plan for the 2020 session.
- Senate Bill 175 – Public School Assessments and Accountability – Passed
- A compromise version of Senate Bill 175 both chambers late on the last day of session. Both the Committee and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce had expressed concerns about changes to academic indicators including postsecondary readiness, as well as compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); these were addressed in part by the compromise.
We encourage all members of the Prichard Committee and the Groundswell Initiative to reach out to their local senators and representatives this summer to underscore the importance of continued progress in our system of public education – early childhood through postsecondary. The future of our commonwealth depends upon our continued improvement.
Since 1983, the Prichard Committee has worked to study priority issues, inform the public and policy makers about best practices and engage citizens, business leaders, families, students, and other stakeholders in a shared mission to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states for education excellence and equity for all children, from their earliest years through postsecondary education.