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Education bills bloom in 2017 Session
Rep. Flood stacks up bibles during debate on HB 138 bible literacy. Photo courtesy of LRC.

Education is on the minds of the 2017 General Assembly. From testing and academic standards to charter schools to higher education college boards and performance funding, this session is considering a myriad of bills that affect Kentucky's students.

Senate Bill 1 made major changes in assessments and performance of elementary and high schools. SB 1 was a response to Common Core standards. Schools now will judge themselves on improvement with oversight by the Kentucky Department of Education. Governor Bevin signed SB 1 into law.

Under HB 520, the charter schools would be part of the state's system of public education, but the schools would be exempt from some laws and regulations applicable to public school systems. Senator Mike Wilson said the charter schools would be tuition free, nonprofit and have no religious affiliation. In addition, the charter schools would have to be committed to "at-risk" students and located in areas where those students reside. The bill is in the House Education Committee.

Senate Bill 50 would give school districts more flexibility when setting school calendars. Districts that choose to start the school year no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 wouldn't have to meet the state's 170-day requirement for the school year, as long as students were still receiving 1,062 hours of instruction each year, which is considered the equivalent of 170 school days. The bill passed the Senate on a 33-1 vote and has been sent to the House.The Bill is in the House Education Committee.

Senate Bill 138 would allow Bible literacy courses to be taught in public schools as a social studies elective. The bill would require that the "course provide students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.The Bill has been in Senate Rules Committee since 2/17/17

Senate Bill 78 proposes a ban on tobacco products at public schools. The measure would prohibit use of tobacco products by students, school personnel, and visitors in schools, school vehicles, properties, and at school activities.The Bill, passed by the Senate is in House Education Committee.

HB 315 would use many approaches to rout out criminal gang activity including felony penalties for criminal gang recruitment, with stiffer penalties for adults 18 and older who recruit children under age 15 to join gangs and require children who do join to commit a crime, said the sponsor. Anyone, of any age, who intentionally encourages someone to join a criminal gang would face misdemeanor or felony.The Bill passed the House and is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 17 would specify in statutes that students are permitted to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination. The bill passed the Senate on a 31-3 vote. The bill passed out of the House Committee and is on the calendar for consideration as of 2/28/17.

House Bill 145 would help fight opioid addiction by requiring that public school students be educated about the dangers of prescription pain killers and their connection to addiction to heroin and other drugs.The Bill passed the House and is in the Senate Education Committee.

Under Senate Bill 153, the postsecondary funding formula would appropriate 35 percent of funds based on student success tied to outcomes, 35 percent would be tied to total student credit hours, and 30 percent would be based on supporting vital campus operations.The funding model established by SB 153 would be phased in over several years. A postsecondary work group would review the results of the new funding approach every three years to see if it is successful and make recommendations to the General Assembly.The Bill was approved by the Senate on a 36-1. It's now in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

House Bill 241 would specify in statute that a student-athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion cannot return to a practice or competition until cleared by a physician. The legislation was approved by the House and has been delivered to the Senate and in the Senate Education Committee.

Editor's Note: Information is current as of February 28, 2017. For complete information, visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/

March 1, 2017 is the 21st day of the 2017 Regular Session. Bills that are going to become law are going to have to get through the pack by March 8th. The rest of the days are for concurrence and veto days.

Now might be the time to panic- or not. There is time to contact your legislator if you have an opinion on pending legislation.

Click on more to find a list of legislators and email addresses.

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