Snow makeup days compromise falls apart – The Courier-Journal
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Negotiations collapsed Monday on a bill to help school districts cope with missed snow days, and lawmakers from the House and Senate say they are unlikely to break the impasse before adjourning this year.
A handful of House Democrats and Senate Republicans proposed a compromise bill last week and appeared ready to send it to Gov. Steve Beshear for a signature.
But legislators accused each other of last-minute changes Monday that killed any deal to help districts, some of which have missed more than 30 days due to weather.
Senate Education Chairman Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said the House wanted to let districts end the school year on June 1 without any oversight from state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.
“We just couldn’t agree to that,” Wilson said. “At this point negotiations are dead.”
But Rep. John Will Stacy, a Democrat from West Liberty who was leading the talks for House Democrats, said the Senate wanted to keep students in school until June 14 and give Holliday too much control over district calendars.
“I have no idea what they are doing,” he said. “The only thing I know they are doing is they are delaying real relief for educators all across this state and families that want some certainty.”
The House and Senate have each passed bills to address the issue in recent weeks but disagreed on the best approach and appointed a conference committee Friday to hammer out an accord.
The House originally sought to waive up to 10 missed days for districts, without discretion from the Department of Education.
Meanwhile, the Senate plan would have required districts to make up as much time as possible before Holliday could consider granting any waivers.
Friday’s compromise encouraged districts to undertake efforts — such as extending school days up to seven hours — to make up lost time in the classroom and provide at least 1,062 instructional hours this year. But those that were unable to meet the standard would still have been allowed to end the academic year June 11.
“I felt like we were very close,” Wilson said. “It’s kinda shocking to me that it would come back to be that big of difference from what we had been talking about on Friday.”
Wilson said the Senate only wanted to push back the end date to June 13, and that he doesn’t anticipate any more legislation that would provide relief to districts. Instead, he pointed to a process already in place that allows Holliday to waive makeup days if districts have missed more than 20 and agree to an instructional response plan.
But Stacy argued that only two districts would benefit under the Senate’s latest proposal and that the House was prepared to meet again Monday to continue working on a deal.
“Instead of sitting down and talking, they sent us a proposal that was more strict than what we said we would look at over the weekend,” he said.
Stacy added that the House is willing to negotiate again if the Senate will consider a bill that would provide “real relief” but said “there is nothing to talk about at this point.”
Still, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, argued Monday that the issue is too important to abandon and noted that the House and Senate could restart negotiations by appointing a new conference committee.
He suggested that House leaders may contact the Senate about that option on Tuesday.
“I think we should pass something,” Stumbo said. “It’s obviously a hardship on a lot of our districts out there.”
Kentucky’s 173 school districts are required to provide a minimum of 170 instructional days each year, and more than 40 have missed at least 20 days this winter because of bad weather. Ten are believed to have missed more than 30.
Reporter Mike Wynn can be reached at (502) 875-5136. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeWynn_CJ.