Education measures aim to protect students, certify more substitute teachers, examine funding

A look at some bills affecting Kentucky’s public schools

By: - February 13, 2024 5:45 am

When considering job applicants, schools would have more information about any record of sexual misconduct with students if House Bill 275 becomes law. It awaits consideration in the Senate. (Getty Images)

Rep. James Tipton presents House Bill 275. (LRC Public Information)

FRANKFORT — A renewed effort to help schools avoid new hires who have a history of sexual misconduct, a response to the substitute teacher shortage and a fresh look at the school funding formula are among education legislation introduced in this session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

House Education Committee Chair Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, is once again proposing changes aimed at keeping sexual abusers from moving from school to school.

The House already has approved Tipton’s House Bill 275, which would require those applying for jobs in schools to disclose if they have been the subject of an allegation, investigation or disciplinary action within the last year involving abusive misconduct while working in a school.

Applicants also would be required to agree to a reference check. Districts would be required to internally report and fully investigate allegations of abusive conduct. And districts would be prohibited from entering into nondisclosure agreements related to misconduct involving a minor or student.  

Last year, Tipton sponsored a similar bill that got through the House but died in the Senate. After this year’s bill made it out of the House last week on a 95-0 vote, Tipton said it would give “school districts the tools to ensure the safety of our children from predatory individuals.” 

“These individuals are responsible for some of the most heinous crimes that we see involving students,” Tipton said. “They should not be allowed to harm our children and then move on to another school district to avoid punishment. HB 275 makes sure these individuals are held accountable, and that school districts have the information necessary to keep them out of the classroom.”

Here are other education bills that are moving through the Kentucky General Assembly: 

Quicker notification to schools when students face criminal charges

John Schickel (LRC Public Information)

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, is sponsoring a bill that would allow school districts to be notified if a student has been charged with a crime in certain cases. Senate Bill 11 was forwarded by the Senate Education Committee last week and was passed by the Senate in a vote of 35-1 Tuesday.

Schickel, appearing in committee with local law enforcement and court and school representatives from his district, said there is now a delay of up to 20 days for schools to be notified a student has been charged with a crime, which if they were an adult would be a felony or a misdemeanor involving a drug, weapon, assault or a sex crime. 

Jon Akers, the executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, told the committee that he saw issues as a school principal where the school did not have information about a student being charged. 

“I didn’t want to wait 20 days to find out what’s going on. I wanted to know something immediately so I can prepare for this,” Akers said. “The student’s going to be in there, I understand that, but we can make preparations, and so that’s why I would be very supportive of this program.” 

Making it easier to sub

Backed by several House Republicans, House Bill 387 would lower the requirements to become a substitute teacher in Kentucky. The House Education Committee forwarded the bill last week.

The measure would allow the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) to authorize a one-year emergency certificate to eligible applicants with a high school diploma or an equivalent, according to the committee substitute adopted. The board may give applicants with a bachelor’s degree a five-year emergency certificate and a ten-year certificate to anyone eligible for a Kentucky teaching certificate or previously had a Kentucky teaching certificate. 

If passed, the bill would allow those with one-year and five-year certificates to be employed by a school district as a full-time substitute teacher or replace a teacher for more than 20 consecutive instructional days. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Timmy Truett, R-McKee, is an elementary school principal. He told the House Education committee he recently called the vice principal and asked how the school was. Nine teachers were out and there were zero substitutes available. 

Currently, substitute teachers are required to have at least 64 hours of college credit. Truett said he can think of several people he would like to have as a substitute teacher, but they do not meet this requirement. 

“We need teachers, we need aides, we need cooks, we need janitors, we need bus drivers, but we also need substitute teachers,” Truett said. “And there’s probably a lot of people out there who love to be in the classrooms helping teach.” 

Sen. Brandon Storm, R-London, referenced the bill while voting against another piece of legislation that would change how teachers are paid for sick days, Senate Bill 4, during a committee meeting last week. That bill could lead to some teachers using more sick days ahead of their retirement, leading to a greater need for more substitute teachers, some educators said. 

SEEKing a new funding formula?

Truett is also the sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 60, which would create a task force to study the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) formula and deliver a report to the Legislative Research Commission by Dec. 1, 2024. The task force would review the formula and evaluate what changes should be made to it. 

While speaking to the House Education Committee, Truett said the formula has received a lot of recent attention, especially as lawmakers consider the next state budget.

Rep. Scott Sharp, R-Ashland, left, talks with Rep. Timmy Truett, R-McKee, as they ascend the stairs to the House chambers before the start of session, Feb. 8, 2024. (LRC Public Information)

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a Tuesday Senate vote. 

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.

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