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Gov. Beshear signs six bills to improve education access

From Crystal Staley/Scottie Ellis

Frankfort, KY - On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear joined state lawmakers, educators and advocates in the Capitol Rotunda to ceremonially sign six bills that expand access to education in the commonwealth.

The bills add post-secondary pathways for high school students in alternative schools; address teacher shortages; support early literacy education; support due process for university students; speed up the process for school district construction projects; and expand Kentucky children's access to books.

"My administration will always put education first. If we want to continue to attract world-class companies, we must provide a world-class public education system," Gov. Beshear said. "As Governor, and as a dad who wants all our kids to succeed, it's my goal to ensure that every Kentucky child has access to a quality education that will prepare them for a bright future."

House Bill 194
First, the Governor signed House Bill 194, which expands options for high school students in alternative schools to earn a high school diploma. Approximately 24,000 Kentucky students are enrolled in alternative education programs. Many of these students tend to drop out if they don't have enough credits to graduate on time.

HB 194 allows these students to take the GED exam and earn a High School Equivalency Diploma. This opportunity helps high school students in alternative schools find a path forward such as postsecondary education, learning a trade or enlisting in the military.

"We need to do everything we can to help these young people be prepared for their future careers as they go into adulthood and 194 does that," said Rep. D.J. Johnson of Owensboro, who sponsored the bill. "Before, you might have two students sitting in a classroom and one of the students was allowed to take the GED and one wasn't, because of the criteria that were in place at the time. 194 fixed that."

House Bill 277
Second, Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 277. To help address teacher shortages, this legislation creates more pathways to receiving teacher certification.

The bill creates a new expedited alternative certification pathway, referred to as Option 9, using a residency program. This new route will be available to candidates who have not obtained a bachelor's degree and will have to be approved by the Education Professional Standards Board.

HB 277 also authorizes any teacher receiving emergency teaching certification during the 2021-2022 school year be eligible to renew that certification during the 2022-2023 school year.

"It is a challenging time for our schools to fill vacancies and recruit new individuals into this esteemed profession. This bill is a game-changer for districts who are interested in growing their own teachers. We want a pipeline of teachers to recruit, who live in our communities, who know the kids, and who have a passion for teaching," said Rep. Walker Thomas of Hopkinsville, who sponsored the bill. "Our students need and deserve the very best teachers and I know some of those future teachers are students who are living in my hometown and your hometown. They just need a different path toward becoming a teacher."

Senate Bill 9
Next, the Governor signed Senate Bill 9, also known as the "Read to Succeed Act," which aims to improve early literacy education. The bill improves and expands diagnostic assessment, establishing a reliable and universal screener for reading in order to better identify if a student is falling behind in reading development.

Additionally, SB 9 develops intervention and student supports, as well as family engagement, including at-home learning strategies.

Finally, the "Read to Succeed Act" strengthens teacher training and development by ensuring teachers are trained on how to properly interpret reading diagnostic results, and how to use those results to design instruction and intervention plans for the student to get them back on track.

"Senate Bill 9 is not complicated. If a child can learn to read by third grade, the rest of their life is changed forever in a positive way. Their educational attainment levels increase exponentially, and their general quality of life increases as well," said Senator Stephen West of Paris, who sponsored the bill. "This bill aims to equip our teachers to get the job done and make sure every kid has a chance."

"Reading and education will open up the world for a child." said Rep. James Tipton of Taylorsville, who sponsored a similar in the House of Representatives. "There are so many opportunities out there. I truly believe that this is an education bill that can bridge generational poverty. It can provide those opportunities for students to succeed in life."

"Improving early literacy in a persistently poor state is critical for Kentucky to realize a big, bold future," said Brigitte Blom, president and CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. "Kentucky's education outcomes and economy will be stronger because of our shared commitment to ensure stronger literacy in the earlier grades."

House Bill 290
Following SB 9, Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 290, also known as the Kentucky Campus Due Process Protection Act. The legislation serves as a comprehensive protection of student rights at universities across the commonwealth.

HB 290 will ensure that students facing potentially life-altering sanctions, such as expulsion, or students who are in situations where they have to navigate their university's judicial system, such as assault or stalking cases that involve another student, have procedural protections like the right to hire legal representation, the right to present and cross-examine witnesses and the right to access all the evidence in the institution's possession.

"With the signing of this historic legislation I have confidence again." said Julia Mattingly, a senior at the University of Louisville and an advocate for HB 290. "I have confidence that Kentucky universities will work to ensure fairness for their students. I have confidence that from today on Kentucky college students will be afforded the same due process rights on campus as they would be off campus. The passage of this bill shows that our governor and our legislature are truly dedicated to the rights of Kentucky college students."

House Bill 678
Next, the Governor signed House Bill 678, which establishes a two-year pilot project that allows school districts to begin construction projects without needed approval from the state level except for the initial approval of the initial project documents.

The bill also requires the Kentucky Department of Education to review current facility and construction administrative regulations to identify and improve inefficiencies. HB 678 will make it easier for school districts to build facilities such as gymnasiums and classrooms in order to provide a safe and strong learning environment for students.

"As we know, part of a world-class education system is world-class facilities. So this effectiveness, this timeliness, is giving districts the ability to make quick decisions for meaningful changes in school facilities. It allows innovative ideas and helps save valuable resources in making sure we have world-class facilities for our kids. We thank the Governor for signing this legislation and thank our legislators for passing it," said Dr. Henry Webb, Kenton County School District superintendent.

Senate Bill 164
Lastly, Gov. Beshear signed Senate Bill 164. This legislation establishes the "Imagination Library of Kentucky Program," which will expand access to books for children across the commonwealth. Under the program, every month each registered child from birth to 5 years old will receive a book at no cost to the family.

SB 164 creates the "Imagination Library of Kentucky Program" trust fund, consisting of state general fund appropriations, gifts and grants from public and private sources, and federal funds. The bill also expands the Imagination Library to all 120 Kentucky counties. This will improve childhood literacy rates in Kentucky, and close educational attainment gaps.

"This is a wonderful moment and a great opportunity for the state of Kentucky," said Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, who sponsored the bill. "The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is here to stay. This is a great public-private partnership that guarantees any child who wants it, from when they're a newborn to five-years-old, can get a book delivered to their home monthly. We know the effectiveness of having books in the home. I know from my own kids how important this is and how we can move the needle in Kentucky. Kentucky is one of the first states to adopt the Imagination Library statewide. This is a bipartisan win for our kids."

This story was posted on 2022-07-19 09:00:10
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