By Tom Latek
A House bill that would ban a mask mandate in schools failed the House Education Committee by a vote early Wednesday afternoon, but came back to life in a more reconsideration vote late in the day during the second day of a special session of the General Assembly.
While only 11 committee members were in favor in the initial recorded vote – one less than the 12 needed in the 22-member committee – the “yes” rose to 16 in the reconsideration vote.
Representative Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell and one of the bill’s co-sponsors said the discussion that led to the final vote “looked like a dysfunctional Thanksgiving meal.”
Banta told reporters after the second vote what had changed.
“We got together in caucus and started talking about some of the issues people were having with the bill. We agreed that we might have to work on it in the future, but we feared we would kill him completely because of all the good things the schools were going to lose.
Although the Senate also had a version of the bill, Banta said: “I haven’t seen the Senate version, but I was told there weren’t as many freebies for schools. . “
House Bill 1 would ban any statewide mask mandate in schools, however, local districts would have the ability to set their own policy, as part of the implementation of a COVID-19 plan. Local districts would have 10 days for non-traditional education, or NTI days, while also providing a temporary distance education option for use at the school, classroom, or classroom level. All certified and classified personnel should still work on site during NTI days.
School districts could continue to use pre-pandemic 2018-19 or 2019-2020 attendance data to determine average daily attendance rates, or ADA; this is how the state bases the amount of funding that goes to each district.
The bill would temporarily revise the emergency replacement certification requirements, allow educational activities to be performed by classified staff, and allow a district to temporarily hire staff upon receipt of a preliminary background check. , as well as directing the Kentucky State Police and Cabinet for Health and Family Services to prioritize school district background checks.
Retired teachers could return to work until January 15, 2022 to deal with staff and substitute teacher shortages, without compromising their retirement pay.
Schools would also have the option of using 170 school days or extending each school day so that 1,062 teaching hours are fulfilled, for the 2021-2022 school year.
It also directs the State Department of Public Health to develop a model “test-to-stay” program for schools, which involves daily testing, or any other COVID-19 plan approved by the local school board for masking, contact tracing and quarantine, including location and provisioning of resources.
The measurement goes to the floor of the house.
The Standing Senate Committee on Education approved a law that mirrors the House bill and it made it to the Senate.