August 6, 2021
SCHOOL-BASED DECISION MAKING COUNCILS PLAY A PIVOTAL ROLE IN YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION
The matter of our children’s education is always at the center of our Commonwealth’s discussions, especially in the realm of public policy. This is as it should be because preparing the next generation to enter the world is too critical to ignore. Often, the debate over issues concerning education is passionate because we all care greatly about ensuring that young people are well-prepared to take on life as adults. This is especially true for parents who desire to see their children succeed and prosper when they leave the nest.
As a state lawmaker, education-related issues are consistently a top issue in the subject line of emails I receive from constituents of the 31st District. Each State Senator and Representative has issues that are unique to their communities, be it a specific road project or an issue impacting only a county or city, but the significance of students’ education and the people who deliver it to them is the same from Pike County in the east to Fulton County in the west. Each district contains bright young minds, dedicated educators, and similar challenges to face.
The question at the center of each constituent inquiry is, “What can I do to make things better?” In some cases, the first step for constituents is to reach out to their representatives. The Kentucky General Assembly passes education-related bills each legislative session. In recent years we have priority legislation as impactful as enhancing school safety and security (Senate Bill 1, 2019) to other meaningful—though mundane to some—education issues such as the postsecondary education performance fund (Senate Bill 135, 2021). While a lot can be done legislatively in Frankfort, it is vital to know that Kentucky values local decision-making. Much of the influence on a child’s education happens at the local level.
When mentioning the local level in the context of a discussion on education, you probably first think of your local school board. In general, they consist of five nonpartisan members elected to serve 4-year terms. Responsibilities of school boards include fiscal management within the district such as levying taxes, allocating funds among schools, and approving projects; setting graduation requirements and discipline code; and overseeing personnel matters such as the appointment—in most instances—of the district superintendent, approving leaves of absence, and setting job qualification, duties, and compensation. Many people know their local school board and maybe even its members, but I have witnessed that many people are unfamiliar with the significance of their individual School-Based Decision Making Council (SBDM).
The Kentucky Education Reform Act was passed in 1990. The bill changed the face of education in Kentucky. Perhaps the most significant provision of the bill was the establishment of School-Based Decision Making (SBDM) Councils. These exist in every school in the district and set each school’s policy. One of the most tangible ways to make a difference in education is to get involved in their school SBDM Council.
Involvement can include attendance at meetings and staying aware of the council’s discussions and decisions. Parents can also serve on these councils. Membership of each council consists of 2 parents, meaning a parent, stepparent, or foster parent of a student OR a person who has legal custody of a student pursuant to a court order and with whom the student resides; 3 teachers, defined as any person for whom certification is required as a basis of employment in the public schools of the state; and an administrator of the school, who serves as chair of the council. The idea behind the SBDM Councils is to promote shared leadership among those who are closest to the students. Nobody knows the needs of our students more than the parents who love and raise them and the teachers who educate them.
Details on SBDM Councils are outlined in Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) Chapter 160.345. Most notably, the statute outlines all of the policy areas that they are responsible for. You will notice the distinction between the district-wide responsibilities of the school board compared to those of SBDM Councils.
SBDM Councils determine and develop the curricula our students are taught from and oversee the planning and resolution issues involving instructional practices. Furthermore, they determine the needs assessment and meet the expectations outlined in KRS Chapter 158.6453 related to academic standards. Other responsibilities of the council include assignment of instructional and non-instructional time of staff, assignment of students to classes inside the school, determination of the school schedule, extracurricular programs, emergency plan, and more.
You can find details on SBDM Councils of individual schools on the school district’s website:
Morgan County Schools: morgan.k12.ky.us
Pike County Schools: pike.kyschools.us/
Pike County Independent Schools: pikeville.ky12.ky.us
Suppose you are among the many constituents who have recently reached out to lawmakers with thoughts and concerns on education-related matters. In that case, I strongly encourage you to get involved with your local SBDM Council by attending meetings and voicing your opinions with its members. You may even choose to try to serve on one yourself.
Education will continue to be a top priority for me in the Kentucky General Assembly, so please stay tuned for future legislative updates from the 2021 Interim as fellow lawmakers and I discuss issues and prepare policy ideas for the 2022 Regulars Session that begins next January.
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Note: Senator Phillip Wheeler (R-Pikeville) represents Kentucky’s 31st State Senate District, including Elliott, Lawrence, Martin, Morgan, and Pike Counties. Senator Wheeler serves as a member of the Interim Joint Committees on Economic Development and Workforce Investment; Judiciary; Local Government; Natural Resources and Energy; State Government; Tourism, Small Business, and Information Technology; and Transportation. He is also a member of the 2020-2022 Budget Preparation and Submission Committee, the Capital Planning and Bond Oversight Committee, and the County Clerk Office Modernization Task Force. For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senator Wheeler, please visit:https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators%20Full%20Res%20Images/senate131.jpg