Senate priority education reform bill passes full Senate chamber

02/17/2016 06:19 PM

FRANKFORT – The Senate’s education reform bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, passed the upper chamber with a 25-12 vote on Wednesday.

All 11 Senate Democrats voted no while one Republican, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard cast the GOP’s lone no vote on the Senate floor. Sen. C.B. Embry, R-Morgantown, did not vote.

SB 1 would change the way the state would review their educational standards and how schools and students would be evaluated. Along with doing away with requiring teachers to conduct program reviews and assessments, which educators say take a lot of time and have led to frustration.

In place of the current system, the legislation sets up four subject-area advisory panels made up of teachers and higher-education representatives. The panels would recommend changes to standards or assessments to committees for review.

The final stage in the process would include a Standards and Assessments Recommendation Committee made up of three gubernatorial appointees, three senators appointed by the Senate President and three appointees by the House Speaker. Wilson said he may consider a floor amendment adding the education commissioner to that list. That assessment committee would make recommendations to the Kentucky Board of Education, which would prepare the recommendations for implementation.

Wilson said that the final bill is the result of listening to a number of stakeholders
around the state and the time to pass such legislation is now.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, filed a floor amendment which would have deleted all sections of the bill and directed the Department of Education to establish a task force to study the changes made to public education as a result of the directives of 2009 Senate Bill 1. Neal’s task force would have been made up of the education commissioner
and legislators. There would also have been an advisory panel to the task force composed of public school teachers and higher education representatives.

The amendment failed by a 27-11 vote along party lines.

Neal was particularly concerned that the Standards and Assessments Recommendation Committee would be made up of appointees of the governor, Senate President and Speaker of the House, along with the education commissioner, fearing that the committee was too politically driven.

“You have a situation where you have three individuals appointed by the President of the Senate, individuals appointed by the Speaker of the House, and the governor,”
Neal said. “Concerning to me in terms of the appointing authorities, there’s no input from the minority party.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, objected to the Democrats concern that the bill was politicizing education, saying that the resulting legislation was the result of a collaborative effort which engaged Democrat members of the Senate along with public education stakeholders.

“It disappoints me that they want to basically politicize this claiming politics, which there was never any attempt to do that,” Stivers said. “But they have injected politics into the system by saying it was a politicization, which it was not.

In a statement, Dr. Terry Brooks, Executive Director, Kentucky Youth Advocates released said there is need for reforms to public education in the state.

“SB 1 delivers that fundamental reform,” Brooks said. “SB 1 places a priority on learning rather than testing. SB 1 ensures that the learning drives testing rather than testing driving the rhythms of Kentucky’s classrooms.

“SB 1 places a priority on leadership from local educators,” Brooks continued. “SB 1 broadens postsecondary readiness to reflect the 21st century economy into which today’s students will enter. SB 1 holds schools accountable but, that accountability is transparent, rigorous and realistic.”

The bill now moves on to the House chamber for their consideration.


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