Legislative Update

Just a few education bills filed recently that have caught my attention:

SB176: This bill proposes to modify the qualifications required for the Commissioner of Education. Currently, the Commissioner is required to hold at least a Master’s Degree and have ten years experience as a teacher, with five of those years being in an administrative or supervisory position. This bill would modify those qualifications to require only a Bachelor’s Degree and ten years experience in the field of education, as a teacher, administrator, or policy maker. Usually when qualifications such as these are modified, it’s because there’s a specific person in mind for the job that doesn’t meet the current qualifications. The current Commissioner, Tony Wood, will be retiring before the end of the fiscal year in June. It’s probably safe to assume that either the legislature or Governor has someone in mind for the job that doesn’t meet the current qualifications. Lowering qualifications for a specific person, especially for a job as demanding as the Commissioner of Education, is almost always a bad idea. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

HB1183: Requires every public high school to offer a computer science course. I assume this is part of the Governor’s legislative agenda, as promised during his campaign. The only issues I see may be the lack of infrastructure and qualified teachers for the course in some small high schools. I expect, though, that many high schools already meet this requirements.

SB179: Requires school districts to supply proof of an active desegregation order or court-approved desegregation plan to the Department of Education in order to opt out of the school choice law. Since the new school choice law was passed in 2013, several districts declared an exemption to the law, thus refusing to participate in school choice, based on desegregation orders. The problem was that many of these districts were not subject to an active desegregation order, but declared the requirement to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 desegregation mandate in Brown v. Board of Education as sufficient to qualify for an exemption. This is a stretch, to say the least, and has prompted at least one lawsuit against school districts choosing to opt out. This bill would solve this problem.

HB1241: Would prohibit the use of the standardized assessments associated with the common core. I still don’t understand the fight over common core, and I suppose I never will.

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