Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Teacher planning-time bill clears House

Rep. Bechler
Public school teachers would be given at least 60 minutes per school day for lesson planning and other “nonteaching” activities under a bill that passed the Kentucky House today.

Current law says teachers must have “additional time” for nonteaching activities, like planning and reviewing student work, but allows school councils and school districts to determine how much time the teachers get. Under House Bill 107, schools would have to set aside 60 minutes per day period for full-time teachers, with at least 120 minutes allotted to teachers each week for “self-directed” activities like planning, professional development and outreach.

“This is just to ensure that teachers do have time that they can decide how (to) use,” said Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, who is sponsoring HB 107 with Rep. David Hale, R-Wellington.

Smart said schools can adjust their instructional time to accommodate the proposed nonteaching periods by altering the length of the school day.

“In Madison County we have nine elementary schools and all of them have different start and stop times, so that’s how they (meet their needs),” said Smart.

Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, challenged the bill on the floor. King said her school-based decision making councils say HB 107 would usurp some of their authority under state law.

“Each of my school-based decision making council members at home consider this undermining their authority,” said King.

Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, said both he and school superintendents in his area are concerned about the cost of HB 107. He said that while HB 107 it is a “good-intentioned bill”, he and his school officials are concerned “there will be more teachers needed, especially in the elementary grades.”

Smart said the bill would not affect instructional time and therefore would not require more teachers. It allows for “self-directed time” when, she said, a teacher decides what he or she has to get done.

HB 107 passed by a vote of 77-17 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, voted against the bill. Bechler is concerned the mandated time away from instruction will have negative affects on students and budgets.

"We will be forced to hire more teachers, or we will be forced to have much larger class sizes," Bechler said on the House floor, urging others to oppose the measure.