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It was a day that had Kentucky public education advocates in Frankfort fuming. Here's why.

Raymond
LRC Public Information
/
FRANKFORT, March 4, -- Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, comments on House Bill 8, a tax reform bill, in the House.

The Kentucky House of Representatives gave passing grades Tuesday to a trio of hot button education initiatives, two of them repackaged into a single bill.

The Senate's top priority bill, SB 1, would take authority away from what are known as site-based decision making councils, or SBDMS, and hand it over to superintendents. Under the bill, the councils — made up of teachers, parents, and administrators — would no longer have final say over some governance issues and curriculum.

Defenders say it's about accountability. That is, putting more power in the hands of district superintendents who are chosen by locally-elected school boards.

Quizzed on just how much input the councils would retain, Republican Rep. Ed Massey said, "We're not doing away with site-based councils. There should be a ongoing conversations repeatedly. It just goes to the actual accountability phase."

Detractors view the move as one that will effectively diminish teacher and parent voices.

Even more contentious, however, was the eleventh-hour incorporation of a separate bill, the Teaching American Principles Act, into SB 1. Those added provisions seek to shape how American history is taught. While the term "critical race theory" isn't used in the text, opponents say the bill's language is a thinly-veiled attempt to keep ideas associated with CRT out of classrooms.

Louisville Democrat Keturah Herron, the House's first openly LGBTQ representative, said history shouldn't always be a comfortable subject.

"Some change only comes when people are uncomfortable, and young people have the right to learn all of Kentucky history and American history."
Rep. Keturah Herron (D-Louisville)

Floor speeches about the bill were almost entirely limited to those in opposition, with several lawmakers pointing to the lack of diversity in the two dozen historical documents required to be taught under the proposed social studies rules.

"There are no queer voices, no Native voices, no immigrants since the 1700s, and no Black women," Democrat Josie Raymond said.

The newly-packaged SB 1 cleared the chamber 67-29, but the changes will send it back to Senate.

Earlier Tuesday, in one of the slimmer votes of the session, the House voted 51-46 to provide a permanent funding source for charter schools. The lack of dedicated dollars has left the issue dormant since the legislature approved the establishment of the alternative schools in 2017.