Bills dealing with expanded access to financial aid, principal selection, and charter schools pass through committee

With few days left in the 2022 legislative session, significant education bills saw movement Tuesday in the House Education Committee.

Senate Bill 163, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Storm, loosens some of the restrictions on who can access state financial aid dollars and how those dollars can be utilized.

The legislation removes the statutory ban on individuals with felony records from receiving and utilizing KEES awards and removes broad restrictions on currently-incarcerated Kentuckians from accessing state financial aid programs.

It also allows KEES awardees to use their awards at proprietary schools provided that the program falls within one of Kentucky’s top-five high-demand workforce sectors (Advanced Manufacturing, Business/IT, Construction, Healthcare, and Transportation).

A committee substitute presented and passed in the meeting Tuesday removes language that was added to the bill on the Senate floor that would have restricted certain groups who have been or are currently incarcerated. Rep. Ed Massey said removing that previous amendment is necessary in the interest of restorative justice and successful re-entry by affording individuals educational opportunities.

Senate Bill 163 passed through committee unanimously and now moves to the House floor for a vote before being sent back to the Senate for consideration of concurrence.

The committee also took up Senate Bill 1, legislation sponsored by Sen. John Schickel to provide superintendents with the authority to select principals and curriculum in consultation with site-based decision-making councils.

A committee substitute presented by Rep. Ed Massey has some continuation language around Jefferson County Public Schools, addresses some inconsistencies that arose through the COVID-19 pandemic around absences as opposed to quarantines, and also rolled the language of Senate Bill 138 into the bill in case one or the other does not see final passage.

Funding for charter schools in Kentucky was also passed by the committee. House Bill 9 sponsor Rep. Chad McCoy noted charter schools are not a new concept and all but around seven states have them across the country.

Kentucky passed legislation authorizing charter schools in 2017 but there has been no funding appropriated to ensure their implementation. The legislation would create a permanent funding mechanism for charter schools. Like traditional public schools, public charter schools would receive funding based on student attendance from a mix of local and state tax dollars. 

A committee substitute presented by McCoy would make the bill focus on pilot projects in northern Kentucky and Louisville starting in July of 2023, clarify that SEEK funding follows the student, and ensure the Kentucky Department of Education must list why they are approving or disapproving of a charter school application.

House Bill 9 now moves to the House floor.

Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for updates on education bills.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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