Kentucky Senate

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Legislation that would greatly expand hiring and spending authority for the superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools passed the Kentucky Senate on a 31-6 vote Tuesday.

Senate Bill 250, sponsored by Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, would allow JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio and his successors to hire principals instead of school-based decision making, or SBDM, councils and enter contracts worth up to $20,000 without approval by the Jefferson County Board of Education.

The latter was added through a floor amendment offered by Adams and approved by the Senate.

SB 250 would also remove tenure protections for JCPS administrators, allowing superintendents to demote central office staff at will.

Adams, R-Louisville, said the one-size-fits-all approach to school administration “is handcuffing JCPS.” The bill, she said, would give superintendents greater flexibility to shape the direction of Kentucky’s largest school district.

“Senate Bill 250 is a very small step, but I think a critical step in the right direction,” Adams said from the Senate floor Tuesday.

JCPS was embroiled in a battle over control of the district after the Kentucky Department of Education’s scathing audit and recommendation for state management last year. The two sides ultimately settled and agreed on a corrective action plan to fix issues raised by the state, but KDE could recommend management again for JCPS after a planned 2020 audit.

The prospect of state control of JCPS last year prompted Adams to file SB 250, she said.

Groups like Greater Louisville Inc. and KentuckianaWorks are among those supporting SB 250. The local business community has generally backed efforts to give superintendents better control of JCPS operations.

Pollio has also voiced support for granting him authority to hire principals and repealing administrative tenure.

“We look forward to collaborating with School-Based Decision Making councils, and Dr. Pollio supports the concepts around principal hiring and administrative tenure,” JCPS Communications Director Renee Murphy said in a statement. “Dr. Pollio wants to see success at every school that will lead to success across the district.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey credited Adams with reaching out to various stakeholders – such as teachers, school board members, Senate Democrats who represent Jefferson County and business leaders – to improve SB 250 and consider potential impacts.

The current version of the bill, he said, “looks much better” than the original filing.

“I think that this bill does a good job of taking those viewpoints into account and actually moves away from some of the status quo in a positive manner that will hopefully improve things in Jefferson County,” said McGarvey, D-Louisville.

SB 250 now moves to the House.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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