KASC closely followed three bills with implications for school councils during the 2017 legislative session in Frankfort:
SENATE BILL 1 was an extensive reform bill that would update state education practices on assessment, accountability, evaluation, and more. One of its provisions would eliminate school councils in schools that enter “comprehensive support and improvement” status based on very low overall accountability results or when one or more demographic group misses achievement-gap reduction targets.
The bill also would allow all Kentucky districts to utilize an alternative principal selection model now available only for Jefferson County (explained in KRS 160.345(2)(h)2b).
OUR THOUGHTS: KASC encouraged lawmakers to revise the section of the bill defining how schools are identified for state assistance even after it was modified by the Senate Education Committee. Under the bill, schools that fall into comprehensive support status would automatically lose their council.
SB1 would define two levels of schools in need of assistance: “targeted improvement and support” and “comprehensive improvement and support.” (The “comprehensive” category is comparable to the current “priority schools.”) KASC’s major concern is the method for identifying schools for “targeted improvement and support” — schools experiencing significant achievement gaps based on the performance of at least one demographic group in one tested subject. Our analysis using current-year achievement results as a model shows that approximately 1,000 schools would be categorized as “targeted improvement and support” schools. KASC’s spreadsheet shows the schools, subjects, and demographic groups with the significant gap based on our current-year model. It is important to recognize that under SB1, schools would be identified under the new gap categories beginning in 2018-19 based on performance under accountability measures in the new system.
Schools in the “targeted” category would be required to develop a revised school improvement plan that would be subject to review and approval by the local school board. The bill would require the State Board of Education to set criteria for entering and exiting the “comprehensive” category. Schools designated for “comprehensive improvement and support” would include those in the lowest 5% of overall achievement by school level, high schools with a four-year cohort graduation rate below 80%, and “targeted” schools that enter the comprehensive category based on KBE criteria. Schools in the “comprehensive” category would be subject to an audit, appointment of a turnaround team to provide training and support, and loss of their school council with superintendents given authority to reassign the principal, fill principal vacancies, and oversee a three-year turnaround process.
We believe that councils play an important role in boosting achievement for targeted populations. In fact, many “focus schools” where a single subgroup is flagged for achievement gap issues are classified as “distinguished” or “proficient” on overall accountability measures. Achievement gaps are a national problem, not one created or compounded by the involvement of councils. School councils are diligently working to eliminate achievement gaps. They could benefit from more support and assistance.
KASC opposed expansion of the alternative principal selection model. The existing process, which allowed superintendents to serve as chair of the council for principal selection, provides sufficient opportunity for superintendent input and guidance. State school administrator evaluation results show that superintendents are highly pleased with the quality of principals chosen through current methods, with 0% of principals rated “ineffective” in 2016 evaluations.
STATUS: A substitute version of the bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 16 and passed 35-0 by the full Senate of Feb. 17. The bill was sent to the House, where it passed in the House Education Committee on March 7 and referred to the full House. On March 15, the bill passed the House on a 94-0 vote with two amendments. On March 29, the Senate concurred in the amendments, sending the bill to Gov. Matt Bevin, who signed the bill on April 10.
SENATE BILL 54 would have given superintendents most of the authority that now belongs to school councils, including setting school policies in curriculum, instruction, extracurriculars, assignment of students and staff, school schedule, etc.; authority to make personnel decisions, including principal vacancies; ability to determine instructional materials; authority to plan professional learning, and power to decide student support services. Councils would become advisory groups, and principals would be left with responsibility to develop wellness plans and decide educational displays in a school.
OUR THOUGHTS: KASC opposed this bill. Councils are an important contributor to school success; teachers, principals, and parents deserve a strong voice in schools; educators and families who know the challenges that schools face and who see students and families every day should be able to make decisions to serve students’ needs.
STATUS: The bill was filed and referred to the Senate Education Committee, but no further action was taken during the session.
CHARTER SCHOOLS: HOUSE BILL 520 was filed to allow public charter schools in Kentucky, filed by Rep. John Carney, the House Education Committee chairman. (HOUSE BILL 103 and SENATE BILL 70 were also bills that would have allowed public charter schools in Kentucky.)
OUR THOUGHTS: Councils exist to improve student achievement and provide unique opportunities for local control of education. The growing interest in allowing charter schools in Kentucky comes from a belief that those closest to students and families the authority to tailor schools to meet specific needs while tackling improvement goals. As state leaders work toward new options, they should reject efforts to take such grassroots control away from public schools. It would be a shame to award school-based authority to a fraction of new charter schools while stripping that authority from more than 1,000 existing schools.
STATUS: HB 520 was filed on Feb. 17. The House Education Committee approved an amended version of the bill on March 3, with the full House approving the measure 56-39 later in the day. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee on March 15 and was approved by the Senate, 23-15 later in the day. The House accepted the Senate’s amendments; the bill was signed by Gov. Bevin on March 21. The other two bills were filed and referred to the education committees in their respective chambers.
IMPORTANT ISSUES TO REMEMBER:
> Council governance has occurred during a period when Kentucky’s student achievement has increased significantly on important national measures.
> Many councils have demonstrated focus and results, but some have not lived up to their promise.
> Councils are a solid model of decentralized school-level governance. They can be strengthened to empower teachers, families, and school administrators to improve student achievement, meet community needs, and allow teachers and families to bring learning to life in new ways.
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Make sure that your main message is clearly stated. You can state the action you are requesting in the e-mail subject line (for example: “NO on H.B.800“, or “CHANGE SCHOOL COUNCIL LANGUAGE in S.B. 950.“) Legislators ask that you include your name, home address, and e-mail address in your message.
In all forms of communication, make sure you explain that you are a member’s constituent; explain why you are reaching out and what action you want the member to take; and briefly share any relevant information, data, or examples that might be helpful to the member. Even beyond the specific reason for your contact, be aware that you are establishing yourself as a local resource on education. Be polite, courteous, and concise.
To learn more about KASC’s take on legislative issues, contact us at [email protected] or by phoning (859) 238-2188.