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Legislative Update: Education a primary issue for 2020 General Assembly

By CHAD MCCOY
50th District State Representative

Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 — One look at the calendar will show you how quickly this year is slipping away. We have only 9 Sundays until Christmas, 10 until we welcome in the New Year and less than 80 days until the Kentucky General Assembly convenes the 2020 Regular Session.

REP. CHAD MCCOY

While legislative committees have met throughout the summer and early fall, the pace is really beginning to pick up and we are seeing more bills pre-filed for consideration in January.

Legislators are not required to use the pre-filing process and actually have until mid-session to put forth legislation. However, I do think they give us a hint of what our legislative agenda will look like. I thought I might use this update to preview what it may mean for an issue that impacts all Kentuckians and sets the stage for our future success – education. Without a doubt, the most consequential action we will take for education is passing a state budget. Our budgets are essentially two year spending plans that outline where our money will go and where it will come from, so you can imagine it is a detailed process.

I like to think that if you want to know what someone’s priorities are, you should look at his or her checkbook. The same goes for our state budget. In the current budget, we spend about 45 percent of the General Fund on public education from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The current budget also includes the highest dollar amount of per-pupil funding since this method of funding was instituted in the 1990s. I hope we can build on this in the next budget, but without a doubt we will have our work cut out for us as our state still struggles with the results of decades of leadership that chose short term political gains over our state’s long-term success.

You do not have to look far to find examples of this, particularly with our overwhelming pension debt and poorly maintained roads and bridges. We will have to continue to find ways to do more with what we have, investing wisely and moving more money from burdensome administrative costs and into classrooms where it can have the greatest impact on students. In addition to traditional education funding, our task list also includes funding the initial implementation of the School Safety and Resiliency Act that we passed this session. This is a top priority – as protecting our children should be – and we are beginning to receive detailed information from school districts about how much it will cost them to put the plan into action.

As you may remember, the School Safety and Resiliency Act was a bipartisan approach that included commonsense changes as well as ambitious goals. It makes seemingly simple changes to building security – including electronic entryways and locking classroom doors – while also setting state goals for a school resource officer in every school and increased school counselors to provide mental health services. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is already working with the federal Medicaid program to use Medicaid funds to provide school-based mental and behavioral health services.

While we are working on the education portion of the budget, we will also be considering other legislation. Among the education bills that have been pre-filed to date is the Arts Education Equity Act, BR 203. The bill is aimed at ensuring that all Kentucky students have access to arts instruction, including dance, theater, and music as well as visual arts like painting and drawing. The bill would set specific time requirements for arts instruction. It would also disallow the denial of arts instruction time as a method of discipline. BR 203 would require schools to offer a minimum of two hours per week for elementary art courses and access to courses in middle school.

School bus safety is a growing issue, and we already have two bills pre-filed on the topic. One, BR 124, would allow the state to revoke for 90 days a person’s driver’s license if they are caught illegally passing a school bus. The second bill, BR 136, would require local school districts to install stop arm cameras on school buses that have a daily travel route.

Another bill pre-filed for consideration is BR 31, which would create a teacher loan forgiveness program for educators who enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teaching fields. As you can imagine with all the technology growth, there is a great need to recruit educators to this area.

We will also likely consider the “Good Sport Act,” pre-filed as BR 37. This bill is aimed at curbing violence towards sports officials – including those who referee school games. BR 37 enhances the penalties for intimidating or assaulting a sports official. Unfortunately, we have seen a trend of adult spectators aggressively behaving at children’s ball games.

I will continue to update you in the weeks to come, but hope you will reach out to me if you would like to discuss these or any issues facing our state. I can be reached at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Chad.McCoy@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov. You can also follow me on Twitter @dchadm.

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