KDE Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council discusses current education-related legislation

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Commissioner's Student Advisory Council Virtual Meeting: March 23, 2021

The Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) heard about recent education-related legislation in Kentucky during their meeting on March 23.

One piece of legislation discussed among the council members was Senate Bill (SB) 128, which offers any Kentucky K-12 public or private school student the option to use the 2021-2022 school year as an opportunity to retake or supplement classes they already have completed.

Truesdell said many students are using the opportunity to take dual-credit courses or retake classes they did not pass during the previous school year.

“There are a lot of classes that are harder to take online,” said Truesdell. “This will allow students to come back and take that course.”

SB 128 passed in both the House and Senate and will now be sent to Gov. Andy Beshear for his signature or veto.

Truesdell also discussed House Bill (HB) 563, a more contentious bill in the Kentucky legislature. HB 563 requires school districts to create open enrollment policies to let students attend school districts outside of where they live. The bill also creates a tax credit that families can use to pay for extra education expenses for public school students.

Because private schools do not have the same state testing requirements as public schools, there are concerns that schools will not be able to be effectively compared.

“The issue that we have with this bill is essentially that there is no accountability,” said Truesdell. “We’re afraid that this is going to be a way for people to make money without actually providing that academic benefit for students.”

SAC members also questioned the effects HB 563 would have on public schools.

“As someone who values public education, I have concerns with this legislation,” said Wallace Caleb Bates, a senior at Breathitt County High School. Bates said he was worried about the long-term ramifications the bill may have.

Truesdell noted it was a five-year pilot program. “I have no illusions that it will end after five years,” he said. “They will find a way to expand it and extend it.”

Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass also expressed his concern with the bill.

“The tax credit amount will get larger and larger, and the number of private schools taking part in (the program) will get larger and larger,” said Glass.

Glass said that because state funding will be stretched over more schools, the thinning of resources will produce a period of school closures and consolidations.

Sofia Farmer, a senior at Gatton Academy (Danville Independent), brought up concerns around segregation because of low-income families not having the ability to commute to a school outside of their home district.

Glass said research has shown the legislation would more likely benefit affluent families, not low-income families, because of the resources families need to be able to attend a school district outside of their geographic location.

HB 563 passed both chambers of the Kentucky legislature and is now set to go to Gov. Beshear.

Equity project update
Anastasia Panaretos, a sophomore at South Oldham High School (Oldham County), and Thomas Woods-Tucker, KDE’s chief equity officer and deputy commissioner in the Office of Teaching and Learning, discussed their ongoing equity and inclusion project.

Panaretos announced that she and Tucker have begun the process of working on an equity video that discusses what equity and equality are, and how to include equity in school and community settings.

The video is part of a larger equity project that includes a podcast and newspaper articles.

“I think [the video] is going to be a major game-changer, especially coming from our outstanding students,” said Tucker.

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