Next year’s legislative session might just be the year for changes to school-based decision-making councils long sought by district superintendents and school boards.
State Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, has advanced bills three times in recent years that would make the tweaks, but those measures have failed to win passage in the Kentucky House.
“I think the legislation this year holds even extra urgency because the eyes of so many parents and so many citizens right now are on our school system with questions around curriculum and other things,” Schickel told members of the Interim Joint Education Committee during its meeting Nov. 15.
The legislation is still in the works, but Schickel said it would give superintendents the final say when it comes to selecting school principals and curriculum – after consultation with school-based councils.
Schickel told the Daily News in a follow-up phone call that he plans to file the legislation during the first week of next year’s lawmaking session, which is set to kick off Jan. 4.
The legislation’s re-emergence coincides with parents’ renewed interest in how schools make curriculum decisions – fueled in large part by concerns around critical race theory, even though it is not formally taught in Kentucky schools.
Asked if the legislation would effectively limit parent involvement in curriculum decisions – who currently help make those decisions by serving on school-based councils – Schickel told the Daily News it would not. Compared to teacher representation on the school councils, Schickel said, parents are in the minority.
The Kentucky Department of Education said the administrative structure for these school councils includes two parents, three teachers and the principal or administrator of the school.
Parents and the public, Schickel said, “really don’t have a say at all through the site-based council because they are a minority.”
Frustrated parents often show up at school board meetings with questions or concerns about their school’s curriculum, Schickel said, but those decisions are outside of board members’ control.
His legislation would place those decisions in the hands of the school district’s superintendent, and by extension, its local board of education, Schickel said.
Schickel was joined at the Nov. 15 meeting by Kentucky School Boards Association President Davonna Page, who also serves on Russellville Independent’s Board of Education. Page has also previously served on a school-based council.
Speaking in support of the changes, Page told the Daily News on Thursday that the legislation would help school districts offer consistent instruction across their districts, an objective that is thwarted by the current, decentralized approach Kentucky currently uses.
This would especially help students who are housing insecure and who often change schools, even during the school year. Instead of starting over when they change schools, Page said, students could pick up immediately where they left off.
“Students have become more transient in recent years across Kentucky,” Page said. “If a curriculum can be more consistent across a district, that’s better for students who move between schools.”
Page made a point of saying that she does not want to cut anyone out of the decision-making process, instead favoring a more “collaborative” approach that includes principals, parents and other school leaders together.
“I would like to see the district level leaders involved in curriculum planning and alignment,” Page said, adding it would help streamline instruction not just across schools, but even across grade levels.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.