Controversial riders threaten Kentucky student voice bill
Schools Give Students a Sanitized View of Partisan Politics
This from the Washington Post:
A bill that would give Kentucky students a voice in selecting school system superintendents has hit a snag. On Monday, Kentucky senators tacked on two controversial amendments — one related to which school bathrooms transgender students may use, the other protecting religious speech at school — that the students say are likely to doom their effort.This from the Editorial Board, Courier Journal:
“We really do have bipartisan support, it’s just these amendments don’t have bipartisan support, and they have nothing to do with our bill,” said Eliza Jane Schaeffer, a 16-year-old junior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington.
Schaeffer is part of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, a statewide organization of students in middle school and high school that works to give young people a chance to weigh in on state and local education policy.
Sen. C.B. Embry
The bill they brought to the state legislature this year would allow students to sit on superintendent screening committees, which review applications and make hiring recommendations to local school boards. State law currently prohibits students from sitting on those selection committees.
The Democrat-led Kentucky House passed the bill by a wide margin, 88-5, and on Monday, the legislation passed easily out of committee in the Republican-led Senate. The riders cropped up later in the day on the Senate floor.
Both amendments are separate bills that passed the Senate easily but stalled in the more liberal House.
“They either let our bill through, or we will attach it to legislation such as this,” Robinson said, adding that he likes the students’ superintendent bill but has to send a message to the Democratic leadership in the House. “You either sacrifice your own bill, or you pass what you should have passed to start with.”
Sen. Albert Robinson
Embry did not respond to a request for comment.
Schaeffer and her fellow student Gentry Fitch, both of whom have testified about the bill in the legislature in the winter, said they’ve learned that their civics and government classes have offered a somewhat sanitized view of how government works. And that old Schoolhouse Rock song, “How a Bill Becomes a Law”? A little Pollyanna-ish.
“Our running joke is that it’s less ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ than ‘House of Cards’,” said Rachel Belin, one of the students’ adult advisers. “As a former social studies teacher, I’m worried that an unbelievable civics lesson may become an unbelievable cynics lesson.”
Robinson said the students are learning about real life. “It’s Politics 101,” he said.
The students are continuing to lobby for their bill in between their high school classes, reaching out to lawmakers and to the media to press their case. But they’re running out of time: Kentucky’s legislative session ends Wednesday.
Don’t gut good bill
Some of Kentucky’s best and brightest high school students are getting a nasty dose of political reality when it comes to the state legislature: No good bill is too good to be gutted.
Members of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team have worked tirelessly to advance House Bill 236, which would allow an optional student member on local committees that screen school superintendents.It passed the House Feb. 26.Then it got to the Senate and met the “bathroom bill.”Seeking to salvage his Senate Bill 76, which governs which school restroom transgender students can use, Sen. C.B. Embry Jr. has proposed it as an amendment to HB 236, the Prichard students’ bill on superintendent selection.Sen. Embry, a Morgantown Republican, is trying to derail a decision at Louisville’s Atherton High School to allow transgender students to choose which bathroom to use.Meanwhile, Sen. Al Robinson, an Eastern Kentucky Republican, is seeking to attach another amendment liberally expanding religious activity in public schools.Senate leaders should scrap these ripper amendments, pass HB 236 and show the Prichard students that democracy still works, even in Frankfort.