LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky passed landmark, court-ordered reform a quarter-century ago, aimed at improving cash and learning poor school districts by holding teachers and administrators accountable for children's performance.
This year, Kentucky Republicans have made Senate Bill #1 job one.
"We're proud of what our teachers do," Senate Education Committee Chair Bill Wilson (R- Bowling Green) told colleagues shortly before his bill passed mostly along party lines, 25-12. "But it's time to let 'em teach."
"We like the fact that it shifts a lot of decision-making back to the local level," said Brent McKim, President of the Jefferson County Teachers' Association, the Commonwealth's largest teachers' union. "We know the kids and we know the situations in the schools."
Eight-and-one-half years ago, then-Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sheldon Berman bemoaned the district's performance in meeting some federal standards tied to No Child Left Behind.
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"As the parent of a special needs child, I doubt he will ever reach standards of proficiency," Berman told reporters.
Sixty-two Jefferson County Public Schools offer courses in English as a Second Language (ESL) to about 7,000 children and teenagers. Senate Democrats suggest Bill #1 risks leaving special needs and ESL students behind by no longer factoring their scores into a school or district's overall performance grade. Rather, their scores would be compared only to scores of ESL and special needs students statewide.
"We have to have high expectations for all of our students," McKim said. "But the current approach of expecting them to be up to speed and ready to take the state exams in one year is probably not realistic."
McKim reserves great concern for the new 10-member panel that Bill #1 would create to review coursework and performance standards every six years.
"It could lead to the state education commissioner being the only member representing educators," he said.