Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

March 21, 2014

OUR VIEW: As lawmakers debate school calendar, they should also shorten their own

GLASGOW — As the General Assembly approaches the end of its mostly inert regular session, lawmakers are discussing how often two distinct groups – public school students and themselves – have to show up for work.

What once was a straightforward proposal to allow school districts whose academic calendars were wrecked by dozens of snow days to seek a waiver for up to 10 instructional days has, naturally, been complicated by politicians doing politician things. Separate House and Senate proposals offer different paths to relief, leaving school and family schedules unsettled until legislators reach a compromise. A conference committee is trying to work out the differences in hopes of announcing a resolution Monday. We hope that happens.

The House-approved plan is simpler, basically allowing school districts to flick up to 10 instructional days off the schedule in order to stay in the neighborhood of the academic year’s expected end date. The Senate plan is complex, but errs on the side of education, calling on districts to exhaust all possible routes to the state-mandated 1,062 hours of annual instruction before the commissioner of education is asked to waive time on a case-by-case basis.

Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, said this week he worries that the House plan is a “free gift” of 10 days to school districts. While we agree that the House proposal seems a little too loose, we’re unconvinced that school districts are eager to exploit the freedom.

“It’s not going to affect me a whole lot either way,” Monroe County Schools Superintendent Lewis Carter told the Daily Times this week. “This has been a pretty rough winter and I don’t think I would want 10 because that would be losing too much quality time, but a few days would be nice to have to add a luxury of getting out before June and still have spring break.

“Ten would be too many for me. There’s some schools that have missed 20 and 30. It would be nice for them, I’m sure. But we don’t want to get so many that it messes up our quality instruction.”

We believe the other districts in this area would adopt the same philosophy. We appreciate that lawmakers are concerned about preserving instructional time, but we also trust individual superintendents and school boards to make appropriate decisions for their communities. They just need the General Assembly to tell them how to do it, and the sooner the better.

Meanwhile, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, this week discussed reducing the number of days legislators are in session, although they disagree about how to do it. Indications are that the issue might not gain enough traction in Frankfort to make it onto the November ballot, but we hope the concept extends beyond this session.

The lawmakers say the current arrangement, which calls for 90 days in session over the course of two years, is too much of a commitment away from their private jobs. The rest of us say that 90 days over the course of two years is simply too much time, considering how little of it is spent actually achieving things.

It’s difficult to imagine a reduction in sessions – no matter how it’s done – being anything other than a positive change for Kentucky.

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