Committee Update: Senate education committee passes three bills

02/09/2017 02:53 PM

FRANKFORT – Bills which would prohibit tobacco use on public school property, establish alternate teaching certificates for veterans, and allow schools the option of a later start date were all passed on Thursday by the Senate Committee on Education.

Senate Bill 78, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, which unanimously passed by a 12-0 vote, would prohibit the use of tobacco products by students, school personnel, and visitors in schools, school vehicles, properties, and activities, and would require the policies to be in place by the 2018-19 school year.

In addition, the legislation would require signage designating the smoke-free policies and specify the punishments for use of tobacco products.

Alvarado says that the time is now for the legislation since Kentucky kids are above the national average when it comes to using tobacco products.

“Sixteen point nine percent, that’s the percentage of Kentucky high school students who smoke regularly in this state,” Alvarado said. “Fifteen point one percent is the percentage of U.S. adults who smoke. Our youth rate in Kentucky is higher than the adult national average.”

Currently, 62 districts in the state representing 654 schools have smoke-free policies in place protecting 52 percent of the total number of students in the commonwealth.

Sixty-four percent of the districts in Kentucky currently have no absolute tobacco-free policies in place.

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky praised the passage the legislation in committee.

“We applaud the Senate Committee on Education for recommending a bill to make Kentucky school campuses smoke-free,” Chandler said in a statement. “We must protect Kentucky’s children, who spend seven hours or more of their day during much of the year in school, from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.”

“Kentucky has the highest adult smoking rate in the nation, and the second highest youth smoking rate,” he added. “This bill will reduce smoking. While cancer mortality nationwide is declining, the rate of cancer deaths in Kentucky is rising. Many cancers are attributable to smoking. Thus, this bill is also a cancer-prevention bill.”

The bill now moves on to the full Senate where it’s expected to pass easily.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 117, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, would allow a veteran with a bachelor’s degree in any area to be issued a provisional teaching certificate if other criteria, such as a passing score on the GRE or its equivalent for certification of a person in a field other than education to teach in elementary, middle, or secondary programs.

After completing internship programs, candidates would receive a professional certificate and be subject to the same renewal requirements as any other teacher with a professional certificate.

Wise told committee members that currently, the rules were different for veterans than other professionals in getting teaching certificates.

“Even though the honorably discharged veteran has a bachelor’s degree, he must have both the academic major in the subject area and a passing score on the Academic Content Assessment designated by EPSB,” Wise said. “But the business professional, the engineer or the lawyer with similar credentials only needs the major or the content assessment.”

Finally, Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, which would establish a school district calendar committee and would waive the current 170 days in the classroom requirement, but not the 1,062 total hours of classroom instruction for districts who choose to start their school year no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26, passed with a 12-0 vote.

SB50 was passed in the full Senate by a 33-1 vote later on Thursday and now moves on to the House for consideration.


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