Controversial neighborhood schools bill appears to be dead this - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Controversial neighborhood schools bill appears to be dead this legislative session

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A top Senate Republican suggested Tuesday that the “neighborhood schools” bill that had moved quickly through the Kentucky state legislature appears to be dead this session.

Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, discussed House Bill 151 on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. The bill, which had already passed the Kentucky House, would have heavily impacted Jefferson County Public Schools, as it would have allowed parents more flexibility in selecting schools closest to their home.

A Senate version of the bill may have limited neighborhood schools to only elementary students in Jefferson County, but since it has not been placed on an education committee agenda, a committee substitute to HB 151 was never officially filed.

Seum told lawmakers "we've run up against time" and there's not enough time for both the neighborhood schools bill and the charter schools bill to pass.

"I'd love to do both, but it's too much," he said after speaking for about 10 minutes on his concerns about busing and poor academic achievement in Louisville.

"In 42 years, we've spent billions (of dollars) to send our kids all over county," Seum said. "Why is it we can't spend this money inside the school?"

Seum said he told the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kevin  Bratcher, R-Louisville, that it wouldn't get passed out of the Senate this session, adding that Bratcher was "disappointed."

Bratcher released a statement Tuesday evening:

We passed HB151 overwhelmingly in the House this year and it is disappointing the Senate did not have enough time to address this timely issue. I look forward to further study and investigation into the JCPS Student Assignment plan by the Joint Education Committee during the 2017 Interim. 

“Everywhere you go, the charter schools bill takes the oxygen out of the room, as far as education is concerned," Bratcher said. 

Under HB 151, current students would not have been forced to change schools because of the new rules. The bill also exempts special schools such as magnets, which have competitive admission; traditional schools, whose seats are awarded by lottery; and alternative schools for children with behavioral issues. It also exempts charter schools, should state lawmakers authorize them in Kentucky.

Because Jefferson County remains largely segregated in housing based on race and incomes, district officials say the policy would greatly reduce diversity in schools.

But beyond that, the bill could shake-up the district’s schools and attendance patterns in ways that are less obvious.

Some schools would be swamped with kids based on proximity, while other schools – even in older, built-out areas – might be candidates for closure or wholesale reinvention because they would have a tiny number of kids to accommodate under HB 151.

On Tuesday, Seum said that Sen. Mike Wilson, the chairman of the education committee, told him that the interim education committee will convene this summer in Jefferson County to further discuss the issue.

"We will tackle this problem," Seum said, adding that "it will not go away."

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You can reach reporter Toni Konz at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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