Lawmakers focus on improvements Kentucky’s K-12 education system | Opinion

While we finished the 2022 Regular Session, I hope to continue using this space to keep you updated on the important legislation we passed during the 60-day session. One of the main focuses of the General Assembly this year was education. We passed a budget with record funding for schools, resources for teacher pay increases and monies to replace old school buildings and build new vocational facilities.

We also passed several key pieces of education legislation, and here are just a handful of examples:

Reforming public education: SB 1 gives superintendents final approval over curriculum and principal hiring decisions. The legislation requires school districts to provide 10 days of paid leave to staff who test positive for COVID-19, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated. The measure also includes provisions that identify historical primary sources that public schools must include in their curriculum – documents that include the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.; and speeches by U.S. President ranging from Franklin Roosevelt to Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. SB 1 ensures students are being taught American history through important documents, which will then further preserve the history of our great state and country. It is important to update our outdated public school systems with new regulations which will keep with times to come, and that is exactly what SB 1 will do.

Focusing on students’ mental health: This year we passed a measure, HB 44, which allows excused absences for student’s mental or behavioral health during the school year.  We have seen our children’s mental health suffer because of the COVID-19 pandemic and this measure helps remove any barriers students might currently be facing. I am proud to support this legislation because we are opening up a conversation about the importance of addressing students and their mental and behavioral health.

The Wyatt Act: HB 517 makes participation in the Legislative Page Program an excused absence from school. The page program is an integral part of the legislative process, with students of all ages coming to the State Capitol and helping legislators for the day The pages that make their way to the Capitol every day during session learn a valuable lesson about the legislative process.

Funding for charter schools: This measure creates a pilot program for charter schools, clarifies that SEEK funds follow a student, and requires the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to organizations interested in opening a public charter school.

Early learning initiative: The Read to Succeed program helps promote early literacy in schools and will help students develop key skills. This year’s budget allocates $11 million to fully fund HB 226 and children can learn the skills necessary to succeed. The goal of Read to Succeed is to ensure that every child in Kentucky will be able to read by the third grade. It would implement the use of evidence-based reading strategies, a reading universal screener, reading diagnostic assessments, and training for all K-3 teachers.

Alternative education programs: HB 194 provides that a student enrolled in a district-operated alternative education program shall be eligible to seek attainment of a High School Equivalency Diploma under certain conditions. It allow students who are unable to graduate and who meet other specific criteria to immediately begin working on their General Education Development (GED) certification. The measure ensures that young Kentuckians can earn their GED as quickly as possible so they can enter into the workforce.

Empowering parents at school board meetings: HB 121 gives parents more access and input in their children’s education. The bill ensures local school boards set aside at least 15 minutes at each meeting for community members to provide input. Before the legislation was signed into law, education boards could cut down on public comments at their meetings. School board meetings are open to the public, so it is key parents are getting time to speak about what their children are being taught. HB 212 ensures parents have a say in classroom instruction and giving them back their voices when it comes to their children’s education.

As always, I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at [email protected]. If you would like more information, please visit the LRC website

Rep. Mary Beth Imes (R-Murray) represents Kentucky’s 5th House District.

Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.