Friday, February 27, 2015

Senate Ed Committee sides with Superintendents, against parents

This from the Herald-Leader:
The Senate Education Committee on Thursday passed a bill that would limit the authority of school-based decision making councils, considerably changing the way individual schools are governed.

School councils would have less power and take on more of an advisory role, and superintendents would have more authority, under Senate Bill 135.

School councils currently set policy and, along with superintendents, help select principals and teachers, and determine which textbooks should be used, among other roles.
Sen. John Schickel, (R, Boone)

Membership of each council includes parents, teachers and a school administrator such as a principal.

Generally, under Sen. John Schickel's bill, the superintendent would make decisions after consulting with the school council.

The bill passed 7-4 and now goes to the full Senate.

When the Kentucky legislature passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990, one major change was in governance, as school-based decision making councils were introduced.

Schickel, R-Union, said superintendents are held accountable for what happens in a school district but "we do not give them the tools they need to manage the school system effectively."

Two senators from Lexington — Republican Alice Forgy Kerr and Democrat Reginald Thomas — were among four on the committee who voted against the bill.

Officials with the Kentucky Association of School Councils spoke against the bill.

Heather Aldrich, president of the association's executive board, said Kentucky had made great gains with school councils. She fears the bill would eliminate teacher and parent voices in raising student achievement.

Aldrich is concerned about elements of the bill that would lessen a council's role on issues such as selecting teachers.

"This bill as written will probably not pass entirely through the system," said State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, who voted for the legislation.

But Higdon said "it starts a conversation."

Higdon said while some school-based decision-making councils are outstanding, "we have some that are not working so well."

Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said that organization is going to remain neutral on the bill.

Hughes said school board members are divided, both passionately supporting and opposing the proposed changes.

Read more here:


Richard Innes said...


I think your readers deserve to know the actual title of the Herald-Leader article is “Senate committee approves bill that would limit authority of Kentucky's school councils.” Your post makes it seem like the news article said something it didn’t say. Since you don’t provide a link to the article, your readers will have to do a lot of work to learn that. May I suggest you at least add a subtitle to make this clear?

Secondly, parents don’t have any real control in SBDMs. By law, teachers have the controlling vote by a 3:2 ratio. The truth is that parents might possibly have more control with authority shifted back to the superintendent. Superintendents are responsible to the local school board and board members are responsible to the parents and taxpaying citizens who elect and fund them.

We have talked before about the “Great Gains” in Kentucky education that KASC president Heather Aldrich claims. I think the picture is mixed, at best. For example, when you properly analyze the 2013 NAEP math results by disaggregating the scores by race, Kentucky performs very poorly compared to the other states. In 1996, about the time the change to SBDM management was complete in Kentucky, the state’s white students failed to outscore whites in any other participating state. In 2013, things were scarcely better as the state’s white students only statistically significantly outscored their counterparts in one other state, West Virginia. That isn’t much progress.

Also, it’s no accident that the SBDMs in many of the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools lost their authority after the leadership audits were completed. If you read some of the leadership audits that were conducted as part of that process, you will find systemic culture problems that existed for a long time, uncorrected, under the SBDM management model.

While there is no guarantee, SBDMs can perform decently, if the school staff has a solid culture. However, SBDMs have also provided cover for highly unacceptable school staff cultures while making that staff virtually immune from correction and improvement. The bill in question might not be the best answer, but it is indeed past time for this discussion to start.

Richard Day said...

Headlines are editorial and I think mine is more accurate except that it should also say …”against teachers” too. There is a link.

The truth is…“might possibly?” What kind of statement of truth is that?

Under the bill, parental and teacher decision-making is reduced. As one who sat on school councils - to one who has not - I assure you, this is not an increase in control for parents who were directly elected themselves.

Of course the picture is mixed. It always is. So what.?

I have seen no evidence that school councils directly impact student achievement. …by extension, perhaps, because the principal certainly does.

That’s not what this issue is about anyway. Superintendents just don’t want to be held responsible for poor results from variables they do not have full control over. And I don’t blame them. I don’t like it when the accountability system punishes teachers (or principals) for things beyond their control either. I only wish the superintendents would be as supportive of teacher’s concerns as they seem to be of their own. What’s good for the goose…

SBDM councils have no control over whatever systemic cultural problems may exist in any school – high-performing or otherwise. Neither do school board members. Why don’t we get rid of school boards?

This discussion has been going on for quite a while now.

I thought your group was in favor of local control. Why do you denigrate those you would put in charge?

But we do agree that the bill in question might not be the best answer.

Richard Innes said...

SBDMs are not really local control. It's more like control of the teachers' union Local.

Richard Day said...


You crack me up sometimes. Really.

When the Bluegrass Institute advocates for charter schools you herald the importance of meaningful parental choice. But now, when it comes to parents being able to shape the selection of the school principal, all of a sudden parents don’t really have anything to offer.

You say you want parents to be freed from all of the rules that restrict choice. But we now see that it all depends on what case you are arguing.

I can’t speak to Jefferson County where, in my opinion, the influence of JCTA does seem outsized, but there is no other district in the state where your statement even approaches reality.

According to Sen. McConnell and/or Paul (it was not clear from your article): “bureaucrats have too much control, parents have too little, and students’ needs get lost in the shuffle.” (

Wasn’t it you who suggested that parents should be viewed “as customers – not just annoying folks who must be endured, but can usually be ignored?” Why do you now want to ignore them? (

To paraphrase what your boss Jim Waters has said, Think tankers who oppose parents helping select school principals for flimsy reasons might want to reconsider their claims to represent the parents in their communities. (

But thanks for the revealing comment.


Richard Innes said...


Since you are having trouble understanding this, here's a real world example that happened FAR away from Jefferson County several years ago. One of the elementary schools in the Ft. Thomas Independent District needed to find a new principal. The teachers wanted one person and the parents wanted another. The parents lost. Teachers, not parents, control SBDM.

Most parents have figured this out, which makes it really hard to find any parents to run for some SBDMs.

Here's another thought: If you really want to do away with local boards, then you are also doing away with the local taxing authority. Are you willing to give up the local tax supports for schools in this state? Or, do you want to trouble the waters of taxation without representation?

Richard Day said...


Now you want me to believe that the mean old Ft. Thomas Teacher Union forced the teachers to outvote the parents? Give me a break.

Yes, Richard, everyone understands that council members get a vote and there is no guarantee that any particular person’s ideas will prevail. Parents disagree with each other from time to time, as do teachers. But most councils agree upon most things, most of the time, and look for consensus. Your lonely Ft. Thomas example means nothing.

It sounds like you are saying that SBDM council parents have little control, so you even want to take that away. That does not fit my ideas about valuing parents.

I have never advocated getting rid of school boards. I am in favor of parents being highly involved in their children’s schools in lots of ways. In my experience, it leads to a much better school.

You are the one arguing to eliminate parental input in principal selection. You actually argue that SBDM parents might gain more control by giving away the little bit they have to the Superintendent. Incredible!

SBDM is intended to be an inclusive process where everyone has a seat at the table, and no one has all of the control.

Richard Innes said...

OK. Let's pass a law that all local, state and national legislative organizations must be composed of 3 Republicans to 2 Democrats and a simple majority vote rules.

Richard Day said...

If it's the ratio you're concerned with why didn't you propose an additional parent member for SBDM councils? Instead you advocate removing SBDM's most meaningful manifestation, and neutering parents in the process?

Think tankers who oppose parents helping select school principals for flimsy reasons might want to reconsider their claims to represent the parents in their communities.

Richard Innes said...

Adding more parents to the mix has been tried before...union always shot it down.

To set the record straight, the Bluegrass Institute solidly supports real parent involvement in schools. We wish there was a lot more of that. However, we don't favor feel-good programs that provide the appearance – but not much substance – of effective parent involvement in their schools.

Do you favor a totally biased system in which parents have only a minority voice. I don’t recall you ever supporting an additional parent on SBDMs. Did you ever take such a position?