Kentucky’s school-based decision-making councils may lose a key power and a protection under proposed legislation revising the groups’ structure and rules.
SBDMs, groups made up of parents, teachers and a school administrator, control most school-level decisions, including selecting curriculum, textbooks and personnel decisions.
Under Senate Bill 3, they would lose one of those powers: The ability to hire the school’s principal. Instead, a district superintendent would hire principals, but only after consulting with the SBDM council.
SB 3 would also allow involuntary transfers of teachers on the SBDM, a reversal of current policy. Critics of the bill say blocking involuntary transfers can protect teachers critical of school governance from retaliation.
Another proposed change would shift the make-up of a council, removing a teacher seat so parents and educators have equal weight. SBDMs currently have two parents, three teachers and a school principal or administrator. If SB 3 is passed, that would shift to two parents, two teachers and the principal.
The Kentucky Department of Education asked for equal parent and teacher seats in its legislative agenda. The bill notes schools would be able to have larger SBDMs as long as the parent-teacher ratio remained equal.
Sponsored by Sen. John Schickel (R – Union), the bill is slated for a third reading in the Senate education committee Thursday afternoon. If the full Senate passes the bill, it would head to the House.
Amending SBDM policy in some capacity made a number of legislative agendas for 2019. At least two — KDE and the Kentucky School Boards Association — wanted to see principal hiring powers shifted to supers.
In a thread of tweets supporting the bill, KSBA said it allows for a “stronger balance of roles,” leading to more engagement and collaboration.
Other education advocates fear the proposal weakens SBDMs, “stripping” parents and teachers of principal selection power and setting teachers up for potential retaliation via transfer.
Moving toward a smaller council size is “concerning,” Save Our Schools KY co-founder Gay Adelmann said in a video explaining her stance on the bill.
Shawna Stenton, a SBDM specialist for Jefferson County Public Schools, tweeted that SB 3 “erodes and overrides” the councils’ authority Wednesday.
“Decisions made on behalf of students should be made by the people closest to their needs: parents, teachers, and principals,” Stenton tweeted.