Written by Sen. Mike Wilson, who represents the 32nd Senate District, including Logan, Simpson, and Todd Counties and southern Warren County.
Last week, Department of Education Commissioner Jason Glass released a statement in opposition to Senate Bill 150, a piece of legislation the General Assembly passed through both chambers by wide margins.
He claimed that we are anti-LGBTQ and that we are passing legislation as such. My rebuttal to that accusation is we are pro-child and pro-family. As a senate body, we passed legislation protecting children under 18, whose brains are not fully formed, keeping them from making permanent changes of which they may not fully understand the repercussions.
Commissioner Glass accused the General Assembly of not focusing on teacher and staff shortages. In the 2023 session alone we moved forward on legislation such as:
· SB 3 establishes an Educators’ Employment Liability Insurance Program to provide teachers with coverage of a minimum of $1 million of excess liability.
· SB 49 seeks to alleviate teacher workforce challenges by extending the length of a provisional teacher certificate.
· SB 138 establishes guidelines helping the Education and Professional Standards Board to improve the certification of substitute teachers, which addresses workforce issues.
· HB 538 establishes stricter discipline flexibility for our most dangerous students, thereby strengthening teachers’ safety.
· HB 319 clears the way for Kentucky to participate in the Interstate Teachers Mobility Compact, and would allow someone with the minimum of a bachelor’s degree and four years of experience in their field to teach that subject under the supervision of a certified teacher.
Glass said we needed to focus on academic recovery from the COVID pandemic shutdowns, when he and his governor are directly responsible for closing schools, thus the academic loss that resulted. At a committee meeting over the summer, the commissioner told teachers that if they did not want to adhere to the KDE’s guidance on gender pronoun usage, they could find a new job. He has directly contributed to an environment hostile to teacher retention, which SB 150 tries to alleviate.
He continues to beat the drum on providing more funding to the Kentucky education system, when during the 2022 budget session, we allocated a record $5.1 billion in funding. In 2023, we allocated $5.4 billion, a $300 million increase. K-12 education comprises 38 percent of our state budget.
Commissioner Glass, the General Assembly is perfectly capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. We have funded schools, we have addressed the teacher shortages, we have passed legislation such as 2022’s SB 9 and 2023’s SB 156 to bolster literacy due to learning loss caused by your administration’s school lockdowns in 2020-21, and we are protecting children from a variety of issues that stem from societal over-sexualization, which is seeping into our schools.
When one thinks about what school is supposed to be, it is where our youth should go to learn the academic subjects: reading, writing, science, history and arithmetic. School was not meant to be a place where children go to learn about sex or sexual practices; these topics should be taught within the home where a family value system is the foundation of those conversations. But, as we have seen in recent years, many topics meant to be taught within the home have been pushed into the public sphere of the education system.
The legislation passed during this 2023 session was aimed at addressing the many concerns of a majority of parents across the commonwealth when it comes to the (non-science related) obscene sexual nature of books in school libraries, gender neutral restrooms in schools, gender dysphoria being normalized and pushed on children, and lastly, obscene sexual education curricula being taught at developmentally inappropriate ages across the K-12 spectrum.
When Governor Andy Beshear appointed Commissioner Glass, he said his reason for the appointment was because of Glass’s vision for improving Kentucky’s public schools. On all academic metrics, he has failed.
So, what I say to the commissioner is he should spend more time focusing on how to close the academic gaps in Kentucky’s schools – which actually IS his responsibility as the commissioner of education, rather than attending LGBTQ conferences in California at the taxpayers’ expense.