Bill allowing neighborhood schools passes senate committee

By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Senate Bill 3 could mean the end of JCPS busing as we know it. The legislation passed its first hurdle Thursday in the state Senate.  It would allow children to attend the school closest to their home. While the bill may have passed, opponents didn't let it go without a fight.

Senators listened to testimony and discussed the bill for more than two hours.

As written it would allow charter schools, which are currently illegal in Kentucky. It would also allow children to attend their neighborhood school.

Things heated up when JCPS Board member Carol Ann Haddad and Senate President David Williams disagreed over the strength of the school system, cost of busing, and school occupancy.

"I want them to have the choice to go anywhere else that they want to," said Williams.

Haddad argued there are too many people in some neighborhoods to fit in the closest school.

"You want the impossible dream," said Haddad.

Williams says something more needs to be done about JCPS' scores.

"Twelve out of the 20 persistently low achieving schools in Kentucky are in the Jefferson County school system," said Williams.

SB 3's co-sponsor and Jefferson County Sen. Dan Seum says keeping kids closer to home will get more parents involved.

"You wonder how can they be involved in their child's education; how can they be involved in the PTA, if the school is way way down the road," asked Seum.

Opponents from the Jefferson County Board of Education say scrapping the reassignment plan will raise busing costs for the first five years by $22 million dollars and will hinder diversity. They also say there aren't enough seats in the classroom to accommodate the changes and it restricts local control.

"You don't like Washington telling you what to do, so we don't really feel that we need to be told how to run our schools," said Haddad.

In the end, the committee passed the bill. All eight republicans voted yes, and all five democrats voted no. The no votes included the only two members on the committee from Jefferson County-- Sen. Denise Harper Angel and Sen. Gerald Neal.

The bill could move to the floor as early as Friday.

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