The top legislative priority of Kentucky’s Republican led Senate easily won approval Wednesday and now moves on to the Democratic House. Senate Bill One passed on a vote of 25 to 12, primarily along party lines.
The measure calls for significant changes in determining academic standards for grades K-12 in Kentucky public schools. Proponents say it will greatly reduce paperwork for teachers and instill a local review of standards for key areas of instruction every six years. Co-Sponsor Republican Senator David Givens says the new federal education law applies pressure to make changes. “The federal government through the changes they made this summer with ESSA set us on a path to have to change our current KDE accountability system,” said Givens.
The measure would allow courses in foreign language, career and technical education, and computer science to fill the arts and humanities requirement. Grayson Senator Robin Webb voted against the measure, citing concern about that provision. “The arts are what keep many students in school," Webb said. "I don’t remember much about calculus, but I do remember what I learned in band and my appreciation of music."
There was some debate on the senate floor about whether the bill would put schools in competition with each other. Senate President Robert Stivers says it’s not about far reaching comparisons. “It’s not a school to school application. It is an area application of those schools in that area,” said Stivers. “It’s not as if you putting one school on one side of the county pitting it against the school on another side of the county.”
Lexington Democratic Representative Reggie Thomas said he worries about establishing a ‘Standards and Assessment Recommendation Committee' which is called for in the bill. It would be comprised of mostly legislative and gubernatorial appointments. “It could lead to and probably lead to politicians controlling the content of what our students learn,” Thomas said.
On adjournment, Senate President Robert Stivers rebuked that characterization, saying leaders in the legislative and executive branches appoint numerous people to various oversight boards.