David O. Smith - February 2021
GOVERNOR'S VETO SAVES FREE PRESS/EDUCATION FALTERS
Our State Representative voted to pass SB 48, which effectively guts the Kentucky Open Records Act. Without the rights guaranteed to private citizens, and the free press, to view public records, cmruption, graft, and malfeasance of elected officials and government employees can go undetected. The operation of our State government should be transparent. This is not what our Representative wants as a member of the Kentucky Legislature. She even voted to keep communications between the Racing Commission and Licensees confidential.
The last thing Kentucky needs in government is secrecy. Fortunately, the Kentucky Governor vetoed this bill and the Kentucky House of Representatives is powerless to ove1ride the veto as they are not in session. But, it will come up again. Tell her you want transparency in government. Now, back to education for our children. Was this open records elimination bill going to help your children obtain a better education? Definitely not. So, why is she spending her time on it, and not education?
The only plus for education in this legislature came from President Biden's stimulus bill, being the American Rescue Plan Act. HB 382 started as a simple appropriations bill to distribute certain funds among eligible counties. It passed the House with Regina Huff voting yea. When the bill reached the Senate, it was substantially amended to include $140 million for fiscal year 2021-2022 to provide for full-time Kindergarten from federal funds provided to the Commonwealth by the Biden American Rescue Plan Act, passed by the U.S. Congress, with not one Republican voting for same in the U.S. Senate.
Regina Huff voted for the Kindergarten appropriation bill, being the Senate substitute. However, the final bill did not go through her Committee. The Kindergarten funding was the sole result of the Kentucky Senate. Thank goodness someone wanted to help our children when the Governor and the Kentucky Senate leaders negotiated this appropriation, no thanks to our Representative.
But, even with this Kindergarten funding, the 2021 Kentucky Legislative Session has set back education in Kentucky with two main bills which constitute a travesty to education.
HB 563, the School Choice Bill, supported by Education Committee Chairman Huff, is clearly harmful to public education. It harms poorer districts and takes up to $25 million from public schools to pay private schools in certain, select counties through a scholarship program.
At first, the bill was suppmied by some school superintendents who thought it would help their districts by taking students from surrounding districts, along with the state money for said students. Basically, the student could choose what district he/she wanted to attend if not his/her home district. This was bad enough as it would take students and funds from poorer districts to wealthier districts. However, with amendments, the bill was drastically changed to allow for public money to pay for students to go to "private" schools.
This bill is clearly unconstitutional and will cost taxpayers money to defend it. The Kentucky Constitution, Section 183, requires the Commonwealth to provide for an efficient system of common schools throughout the State. This bill clearly does not accomplish this goal. Regina Huff voted yea to pass this bill and voted yea to oven-ide the Governor's veto. This bill did not receive a full discussion or comment from all the "stakeholders" and the public as Mrs. Huff advocated should be done.
I'm anxious for the elected one to tell us how this bill helps the schools in her district, besides Corbin Independent. She is supposed to represent all of you and your children in the Commonwealth. In the l 980's, Kentucky was saved from being last in education by Mississippi. In 30 years, we are now only ahead of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and West Virginia. We are still 45th in education.
The school choice bill will harm education in Kentucky as it takes money from the programs that are already underfunded. What a total lack of progress in 30 years. As she said, it's going to be a lean year for education. That is an understatement.
The second devastating bill that harms the Kentucky education system in the long term is HB 278, the retirement plan for new teachers after January 1, 2022. Besides the legislature not giving teachers a raise or additional benefits, and Mrs. Huff not filing a bill for same, this bill reduces the pension benefits for new teachers. This will harm Kentucky's recruitment efforts to obtain the best and the brightest to educate our children. Are we just destined to stay at the bottom of the barrel on education nationwide? Regina Huff voted to pass this bill and voted to override the Governor's veto.
In closing this installment on the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly, our Representative said: "If you support Biden, you couldn't possibly support me." Yet, Biden is clearly the leader who provided the only bright spot in the Kentucky education system this legislature, not our Representative.
- David O. Smith
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