Michelle Ritchie, principal at Perry County Central High School, speaks with students at East Carter High School during a visit. East Carter has been designated a Hub school and serves as a model for school turnaround efforts. Photo by Bobby Ellis, Feb. 15, 2017

Michelle Ritchie, principal at Perry County Central High School, speaks with students at East Carter High School during a visit. East Carter has been designated a Hub school and serves as a model for school turnaround efforts. During the 2017 Regular Session, legislators passed Senate Bill 1. Among other things, the bill adds new language for identification of schools for Targeted Support and Improvement and Comprehensive Support and Improvement.
Photo by Bobby Ellis, Feb. 15, 2017

By Tracy Goff Herman

Local school boards and districts will be implementing lots of new provisions through the coming months with the significant changes made to public education during the 2017 Regular Session.

The most sweeping changes are included in Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 520.

Senate Bill 1
Sen. Mike Wilson’s Senate Bill 1 changes the teacher evaluation process, state assessment and accountability, and how interventions in Kentucky’s lowest-performing schools are conducted.

While SB1 eliminates the statewide Professional Growth and Effectiveness System – which was established in 2013 when the General Assembly passed House Bill 180 – it requires the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to establish a statewide framework for teaching. Each local district will be required to develop and implement a personnel evaluation system aligned to the statewide framework.

The law requires KDE to develop a new accountability system and eliminates program reviews and program audits for arts and humanities, practical living skills and career studies, and the writing program, which also will now be eliminated from inclusion in the state accountability system.

One question that has arisen for school districts after the passage of SB1 pertains to whether or not a school would need to complete its Visual and Performing Arts and Practical Living/Career Studies (PLCS) Program Reviews for the 2016-17 school year. The legislation’s immediate effective date means that a school may choose not to report its results. If the work on these Program Reviews is essentially complete, Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said, school district officials may choose to honor that hard work by reporting the results.

SB1 requires updated academic standards to be aligned to updated assessments. Beginning in 2017-18 and every six years thereafter, KDE must have a new process in place for reviewing academic standards and then aligning those standards to their corresponding assessments.

KDE must provide guidelines to all schools for programs that incorporate academic standards in visual and performing arts, practical living and career studies and how to include an effective writing program within the curriculum. Guidelines also must be provided to middle and high schools for how to include a foreign language program in their curriculum.

The legislation also adds new language for identification of schools for Targeted Support and Improvement and Comprehensive Support and Improvement.

For a review of Kentucky’s current intervention system, see Mass Insight’s State Development Network School Turnaround Diagnostic Report, presented to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) on the department’s efforts to improve low-performing schools. 

The other big change to public education is the establishment of charter schools in Kentucky in Rep. John Carney’s House Bill 520. While the bill allows charters to begin operating in the 2017-18 school year, people are unlikely to see charter schools until the 2018-19 school year due to the length of time it will take for the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) to promulgate administrative regulations.

HB520 allows multiple authorizers for charter schools, including local boards of education, a collaborative of local boards of education, and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington. The KBE must promulgate administrative regulations to:

  • Guide the student application, lottery and enrollment processes for charter schools.
  • Establish the process to be used to evaluate the performance of a charter school authorizer, based upon parameters set forth in the law, and the actions to be taken in response to failures in performance.
  • Establish a revocation and nonrenewal process for charter authorizers.

The funding provisions regarding charter schools were removed from HB520 and were placed in House Bill 471, which amended the current state budget.

The charter school funding provisions included are temporary and only apply to fiscal year 2017-18, the second year of the current fiscal biennium. The legislature will have to address funding for charter schools in the 2018 Regular Session either through additional budget language or to place the provisions of HB471 in statute.

HB471 stipulates:

  • For a student enrolled in a charter school who resides within the boundaries of the local school district where the charter school is located, attendance must be included and reported in the local school district’s Superintendent’s Annual Attendance Report (SAAR) and used to calculate funding for the local school district’s Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funds.
  • A local school district where a charter school is located must transfer the charter school’s portion of the local school district’s SEEK funding. The charter school’s portion must be allocated in the same manner as the school allocation model used by the local school district based on applicable data provided by the charter school.
  • The KBE must set a schedule for the distribution of local school district funds to the charter school. KBE also must promulgate administrative regulations governing the transfer of funds between local school districts, authorizers and charter schools, as well as the imposition of fines for late funds transfers.


Senate Bill 17 (Sen. Albert Robinson) permits students to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination. It also requires local boards of education to ensure that the selection of student speakers is made in a viewpoint-neutral manner and that a student’s prepared remarks are not altered before delivery without student’s consent. Religious and political organizations are allowed equal access to public forums on the same basis as nonreligious and nonpolitical organizations.

Senate Bill 50 (Sen. Damon Thayer) requires each local school district to establish a calendar committee and sets the membership of the committee. The law allows inclusion of a variable student instructional year in a school calendar and defines a variable student instructional year. It establishes school calendar adoption procedures and requires notice to be given to the media for school board meetings regarding the school calendar. SB50 also allows districts that adopt a school calendar with the first student attendance day no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 to use a variable student instructional year.

Senate Bill 117 (Sen. Max Wise) includes definitions for “provisional certificates,” “professional certificates,” and “college or university work of graduate grade.” The bill allows a veteran with a bachelor’s degree in any area to be issued a provisional teaching certificate if other criteria are met. It requires a passing score on the Graduate Record Examinations or its equivalent for certification of a person in a field other than education to teach in elementary, middle or secondary programs. After successful completion of the internship program, candidates must receive a professional certificate and be subject to the same renewal requirements as any other teacher with a professional certificate.

Senate Bill 126 (Sen. Christian McDaniel) requires the Kentucky Retirement Systems to calculate final compensation for state and county employees using partial fiscal years, if members entered the retirement system on or after Sept. 1, 2008, but prior to Jan. 1, 2014, and if the members have less than 12 months of service credit needed to achieve at least 36 months for hazardous employees and at least 60 months for nonhazardous employees.

Senate Bill 159 (Sen. Jared Carpenter) requires all public high school students to pass a civics test in order to receive a regular diploma. Local boards of education will prepare or approve the test, which is to be comprised of 100 questions drawn from the test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to people seeking to become naturalized citizens.

Senate Bill 236 (Sen. Julie Raque Adams) requires school superintendents to conduct a background check of child abuse and neglect records maintained by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) when considering employment decisions. The bill also prohibits youth camps from employing or allowing the involvement of any individual who has been convicted of a criminal offense against a minor or a sex crime, who is a violent offender or has abused or neglected a child.

Youth camps will be required to obtain state and national criminal background checks of applicants, contractors or volunteers, and documentation of the records checks is required. The operating permits of a youth camp will be suspended if it is not in compliance and there will be a criminal penalty for knowingly employing certain offenders. All provisions take effect July 1, except those applying to parents or legal guardians.


House Bill 3 (Rep. Jeff Hoover) deletes prevailing wage provisions and abolishes the Prevailing Wage Review Board. It also prohibits local governments from requiring employers to pay prevailing wage to employees. An emergency clause is included.

House Bill 33 (Rep. Kim King) requires CHFS – if granted custody of a dependent, neglected or abused child – to notify the school the child is enrolled in verbally and then in writing, of persons authorized to contact the child or remove the child from school grounds.

House Bill 38 (Rep. King) prohibits sex offender registrants from being on the grounds of a publicly owned playground without advance written permission from a local legislative body.

House Bill 128 (Rep. DJ Johnson) requires KBE to promulgate administrative regulations to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible. It requires the course to provide students with a knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory and public policy. Students may use various translations of the Bible for the course. The bill also permits a school council to offer an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.

House Bill 180 (Rep. Addia Wuchner) defines “fictive kin” to mean an individual who is not related by birth, adoption or marriage to a child, but who has an emotionally significant relationship with the child. The bill recognizes fictive kin as a placement for a child by CHFS and establishes that CHFS may approve fictive kin as a placement for a child.

House Bill 195 (Rep. James Tipton) allows the Kentucky Adult Education Program to establish programs aligned with the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education, which upon successful completion will result in the issuance of a high school equivalency diploma. The bill requires at least one program to include a test aligned with the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education, to serve as a qualifying test, which upon passing will entitle students to receive a high school equivalency diploma.

House Bill 206 (Rep. Carney) establishes the Dual Credit Scholarship Program and defines terms for the program. The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) will administer the program and will promulgate administrative regulations for the administration of the program. Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) funds will be provided to students enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program.

House Bill 241 (Rep. John Sims Jr.) prohibits a coach from returning a student to play who is diagnosed with a concussion. The bill also prohibits a student from returning to play if no physician or licensed provider is available to conduct the required concussion evaluation. Students who do not receive the required evaluation cannot return to play in a subsequent practice or competition unless written clearance from a physician is provided.

House Bill 253 (Rep. Jeff Greer) requires unannounced visits, if necessary, to the residence or location where reported child abuse or neglect has occurred when an investigation is required as well as ongoing unannounced visits until the welfare of a child has been safeguarded. The bill also requires schools or child care providers to allow access to a child who is subject to an investigation without parental consent.

House Bill 269 (Rep. Steve Riley) allows relatives who are currently ineligible for employment in a school district to serve as substitutes for a certified or classified employee if the relative is not: a regular full-time or part-time employee of the district; accruing continuing contract status or any other right to continuous employment; receiving fringe benefits other than those provided other substitutes; or receiving preference in employment or assignment over other substitutes.

House Bill 277 (Rep. Brandon Reed) removes local board of education member eligibility restriction that no aunt, uncle, son-in-law or daughter-in-law be employed by that board.

House Bill 312 (Rep. Riley) ends the “Best in Class for Teachers,” “Best in Care for Nurses,” and “Best in Law for Public Service Attorneys” loan forgiveness programs established by KHEAA to end by June 30, 2018. Borrowers with remaining balances must be advised of federal loan forgiveness and alternative repayment plan options. Teacher scholarship recipients who teach dual credit coursework in a high school may receive two semesters of teacher scholarship promissory note cancellation for each semester spent teaching.

House Bill 410 (Rep. Jim DuPlessis) establishes procedures and fees for a voluntary statewide child identification program.

House Bill 471 (Rep. Steven Rudy) amends the 2016-18 executive branch biennial budget. Under provisions for the Teachers’ Retirement System, for all retirees under 65 participating in the Kentucky Group Health Insurance, the TRS Board of Trustees must pay the same dependent subsidy that executive branch agencies pay for their active employees who have similar coverage.

The measure also includes three provisions impacting elementary and secondary education funding: allows unexpended SEEK funds to be carried forward to the 2017-18 fiscal year to be utilized for pupil transportation; sets restrictions on the use of capital outlay; and provides charter school financing language.

House Bill 522 (Rep. Carney) allows a state agency child who is at least 17 years old to seek a high school equivalency diploma.

House Bill 524 (Rep. Wuchner) requires public schools to display the National Human Trafficking Reporting Hotline.

NOTE: The Attorney General has opined (OAG 17-007) that “the effective date of legislation passed by the 2017 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, except for general appropriation measures and those containing emergency or delayed effective date provisions, is the first moment of Thursday, June 29, 2017, since 90 full days will then have passed after final adjournment on March 30, 2017.”