Senate bill shifts school governance decisions from school councils to superintendents

Staff report

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by NKY Senator John Schickel, shifts school governance decisions from school decision-making boards to superintendents. It was approved by a 25-9 vote in a rare Saturday session.

Decision-making at the school level was a key element of KERA’s historic reform in 1990. Members of each board included parents, teachers and a school administrator and fostered shared leadership among those in charge. are closest to the students. School councils were responsible for setting school policy and making the decisions outlined in the law that were intended to create an environment for improving student achievement.

The legislation, approved by the Senate on Saturday, will put the selection of principals back in the hands of principals and also give local principals the power to choose the curriculum.

With qualified GOP majorities in both chambers, the chamber will now consider the bill. As “Senate Bill 1,” it was named a priority among Senate Republicans for the 2022 session.

Senator Schickel said the goal is to improve a local school governance system that is “dysfunctional”. He said that since school superintendents are hired and fired by locally elected school boards, making superintendents responsible for curriculum and hiring decisions will strengthen public accountability.

Senator Morgan McGarvey, the first House Democrat, told reporters on Saturday that SB1 goes against the philosophy of local control frequently discussed in the Senate.

Under the bill, superintendents would determine the curriculum after consultation with the principal and the school council, and after a reasonable period of review and response. Superintendents should also consult with the school council before hiring a principal.

Summary of the bill, provided by the Legislative Research Commission:

Amend KRS 160.345 to require the superintendent instead of the board to determine the curriculum after consultation with the principal and school council and after a period of stakeholder response; requiring that allocations to schools by local boards be determined by the principal after consultation with the board rather than being determined by the board; modify the principal’s hiring process requiring that the principal be selected by the superintendent after consultation with the school council; require board members to sign a nondisclosure agreement prior to consultation; allow a complaint process and dismissal of a board member for breach of the nondisclosure agreement; amend KRS 158.6453 to require the Kentucky Department of Education to provide guidelines for effective writing programs to all districts rather than all schools; remove the requirement for schools to submit policies determining the writing curriculum to KDE.

Follow Senate Bill 1 here.

Norman D. Briggs