COVID-19 Education Employee Call to Action

As school districts across the state are working to continue learning opportunities and instruction for Kentucky’s students, it is important for them to be able to support and maintain their staff.

Please call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-372-7181 and leave this message for all legislators:  

As your constituent and a concerned citizen of Kentucky, I am asking you to please remove current limits on emergency leave for education employees and give school districts the flexibility they need to address the Coronavirus crisis they are facing.  
Thank you!

Support HB340: A Salary Supplement for Qualified Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists

Katie Cohen

What is HB 340?

House Bill 340 will require local boards of education to provide an annual salary supplement to qualified Speech-Language Pathologists or Audiologists. The bill is bipartisan; sponsored by Representatives R. Huff, P. Pratt, and D. Schamore. So far this session, this bill has had 3 readings in the House and passed 95-0. The Senate received the bill on 2/12/2020. 

Why provide a salary supplement to SLPs and AUDs?

Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists based in schools are vital to improving the public education of students with communication impairments from early childhood through graduation. 

SLPs and AUDs are highly qualified professionals that should be recognized as such. They have the option to hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence aka “the triple C’s”, through the American Speech- Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). To earn their C’s, Speech- Language Pathologists and Audiologists must earn a Master’s degree from an accredited university, perform 1600 hours of supervised clinical experience, pass a nationally recognized exam, and earn 30 continuing education hours every 3 years. 

The Certificate of Clinical Competence for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists is similar, but not synonymous with the National Board Certification for Teachers. CCC and NBCT programs both encourage professional excellence. 

Have we seen this bill before?

Yes, during the 2010 KY legislative session, a bill was passed and subsequently signed into law by Governor S. Beshear known as the “Salary Supplement Bill”, HB 376. It states that school-based Speech- Language Pathologists and Audiologists possessing a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) may be given a salary stipend, equivalent to that which teachers earning National Board Certification receive, in the value of $2,000. The wording of the bill “permits” local school boards to pay a salary supplement, however, it does not allocate any funds nor require them to do so. 

The Kentucky Speech-Language-Hearing Association (KSHA), KSHA’s Advocacy Network (iKAN), lobbyists, Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists across the state have continued to advocate for the salary supplement. In the 2019 legislative session, the salary supplement legislation, HB 168, received three readings in the House and on 03/06/19 passed 98-0. It was then sent to the Senate Education committee and died there. 

Is this specific to KY?

Currently, five states provide a range of salary supplements to school- based Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists who hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence. And three additional states provide a salary supplement only for SLPs. 

Salary supplements incentivize the best SLPs and AUDs to continue working in the public schools rather than leave for a role in the medical field where he or she could potentially earn double the pay. Salary supplements also encourage our best communication specialists to continue residing in the state of KY rather than moving to a state where he or she could receive higher pay. 

Support school-based Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Support HB 340. 

You can call the LRC Message Line at 1-800-372-7181 to leave a message for your Senator or ALL Senators asking them to SUPPORT HB340.

Scholarship Tax Credits will not help us

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

Seventy three. That’s how many counties in Kentucky don’t have a private school. Do you know who has the most private schools? The Golden Triangle. You can drive along the southern border from Todd County all the way to Letcher County and not hit a single county with a private school. One of those seventy three counties without a private school is Martin County. Martin still does not have drinking water. HB350 would take money from the general fund and give it to the Golden Triangle, neglecting our rural counties and taking away funding our commonwealth needs to provide government services.

The entire premise of Scholarship Tax Credits, or Backdoor Vouchers, is that it offers families a choice. But is that true? In JCPS, we have students who are homeless. Who is completing the appropriate application and tax information for them? According to the JCPS Data Book, there are over five thousand students in the district who are homeless. That’s just the ones we know about. How is this tax credit going to help them? 

The abject poverty of homelessness is not the only financial barrier. Parents who are working two and three jobs and still living in poverty rarely have the time or the ability to access all the information necessary to fulfill the application requirements. If a parent is unable to fill out the information, how is the student meant to access this “opportunity” for education? According to the JCPS Data Book, over sixty percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Due to the magnitude, JCPS implemented entire schools as free lunch and breakfast several years ago. If those students find a way to apply, what will they eat? Are these private institutions prepared to offer students free breakfast and lunch in addition to these scholarships? For some of my students, the majority of their meals are from JCPS. For our neediest, their only meals are from JCPS.

How are they even going to get to the school in the first place? There is a lot of conflict surrounding the idea of bussing in JCPS, but the fact is that families rely on the bussing to get their child to school even if they live near their school. The entirety of bussing isn’t just bussing children from the West End to the East. Bussing in JCPS also includes families with no or limited transportation, students who have been accepted into selective programs, and students being bussed to a school in their own neighborhood. Will this tax credit include transportation provided by the school?

We have over 12,000 students who are identified as English as a Second Language or English Language Learners, are the schools who would benefit from this proposed tax credit going to have services to reach them? How many Bilingual Assistant Interpreters will be available at these schools? Do they have an interpreter for Kinyarawanda? That’s the fifth most spoken language in my school, behind English, Spanish, Arabic, and Swahili. What programs do they have in place for Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE)? Students from war-torn countries often have gaps in education that require special instruction and consideration. 

The JCPS Board of Education is currently looking at a proposal to end exiting in our selective schools. Even when exited from a selective school, students in JCPS are never expelled from our school system. Every child in our commonwealth has a right to an education. If these private institutions want to have tax dollars to provide education, does that mean that they will no longer kick students out of their school systems? Can a child have a rainbow cake for her birthday without being accused of committing “lifestyle offenses” that result in expulsion? How can we be sure that these students aren’t being kicked out purely because these private entities cannot meet the needs of the student?

We have very real concerns in Kentucky. The proposed legislation would take fifty million dollars of our biennium budget and put it into private schools that don’t have the rules, regulation, oversight, and transparency required of public schools. Eastern Kentucky was submerged under water and has been neglected for decades. We have had a series of miners deprived of pay. We have thousands of homeless children all across the state. We have an ongoing opioid crisis. We don’t have one cent that we don’t already need. If we have this money to invest in education, it needs to go to public education where we love and teach every child that comes to us no matter what. It’s clear that these credits aren’t intended to help our most needy. They’re designed to provide a coupon for families who already attend these schools.

In Defense of Open Doors

If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to re-open, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life.” – Gaston Bachelard

Ryan Davis

There is a hallway that changed how I view teaching.  I mean that quite literally. The hallway is not a metaphor.  It is physical space with polished tiles and faded lockers and old paint.  The thing about space is that while we are constantly shaping it to function in accordance with our purposes and values, our spaces are constantly shaping us.   It is an infinite waltz with no clear lead or follow.  

This dance between our architecture and our way of being was made real to me by a hallway full of English teachers.  I am math teacher, but this was before the time that I really knew that what we do is not as much about subjects as it is about students.

One distinctive feature of this hallway was that its doors were almost always open.  And so through the hallway like a spine ran the verve and hum of life, even when it held no people.  The classrooms connected and alive to something bigger, the energy of each slipping out the open doorways.  A space that was more than a collection of individual rooms, but a community. 

It was a space that changed me because it so clearly changed students. The community of open doors fostered belonging and ownership that could be seen in students dipping in and out of rooms to grab a writing piece or book or just to connect for a brief second.  The architecture spoke with a welcome and invitation. It was a place made more fully theirs.  

As much as this is a love letter to hallway (or more so the people who made the hallway alive by choosing to open their doors), it is also an admonition of laws that requires teachers to keep their classroom doors closed and locked.  I know the horrific realities that motivate such laws because I know the images that I, and I’m sure most educators, too frequently find ourselves trying to push out of our heads. School safety raises serious and immediate questions.  And, our answers require a difficult self-interrogation as to whether they are actual solutions or merely responses to fear.    

Fear often disguises itself as pragmatism. It contrasts the ease of a solution with a scenario of severe risk — a closed and locked door protects us from an outside terror.  The simple resolution may be immediately comforting, but it is often incomplete. For instance, experts advocate that when possible the first and most desirable response to violence should be to flee the situation.  A closed door impedes the ability to escape quickly, even more so if the violence begins in a room with closed door. A closed and locked door could also prevent a child from entering a safe place.  

It is impossible to predict whether in a moment of mass terror one will be advantaged by being in a room where the door is opened or closed.  More importantly, such thinking remains rooted in fear and anxiety about the future that cannot help but manifest in the present.  

I don’t know with any certainty what confluence of factors conspire to turn a child toward such terrible violence.  Some have highlighted trauma and mental health. Others have identified bullying and ostracism as playing a significant role.  Then there are misogyny and white supremacy and other ideologies that normalize violence. While the influence and impact of each of these factors may vary, they share a common trait: they are only fed, and never solved, by isolation.  They are wounds that can only be identified and healed by building places of connection and belonging. They require community.   

When I picture that hallway now, with all its doors closed, I feel an immense sense of loss.  The hallway with closed doors is a shell. It feels cold. When I think of having the keep my own door closed and locked, I feel the same sense of loss, but also frustration.  Frustration that I cannot contribute to community that is edifying and empowering for my students – a bigger community that holds them up and closer, and ultimately makes them safer.

For now, fear has caused us to curl a little more inward. And, it is perhaps easy to dismiss a door as a small thing. Perhaps there are compromises to be struck like funding doors that lock from the inside so they can be kept open, but also quickly locked and closed without leaving the room.   I’m optimistic that educators can help lawmakers understand why these seemingly small things matter. The power of a community of open doors is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it. I am grateful that I have had that chance. I worry that students today do not.  

The opening or closing of doors transforms our space which in turn begins to shape us.  While educators will always work to create community where we can, our physical space can either limit the community we make or invite us to make more.  Open doors can make a school more than a series of rooms. Open doors connect classrooms to a larger vibrancy and sense of belonging – they compound the power of community, and all the benefits that come with it.  They make the space our students deserve.  

URGENT: CALL NOW TO OPPOSE VOUCHERS!

Please CALL your legislators today and tell them to vote NO on HB 350! 1-800-372-7181

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee is meeting right now, and the scholarship tax credit supporters are here in their yellow scarves. It’s important for us to let our legislators know that Kentucky’s public schools can’t afford to lose $25 – $50 million.

OPPOSE BACKDOOR VOUCHERS!

Protecting Trans Kids: Why you should be opposed to House Bill 321

Tammy Berlin

What is HB 321, and why are we talking about it?

Kentucky is one of several states that are currently considering legislation that would affect how transgender people will be able to receive healthcare.  These bills are based on wide-spread public misconceptions about what it means to be trans and what is appropriate healthcare for transgendered people. Kentucky’s HB 321 is a bill that denies doctors the ability to provide gender affirmation treatment to transgender children under penalty of law.  If passed, this bill would put Kentucky’s transgendered children at risk. Read on to understand why.  

What is transgender?  

There’s a biological basis for being transgendered.  Gender in humans is determined by a complex set of factors, including genetics, brain development, and our endocrine systems.  Scientists are only now beginning to understand how these factors work together in determining our gender, however, it is clear that the scientific community no longer considers human gender to be a binary, but rather a continuum that encompasses a number of variations.  There’s so much more to our gender identity than our external genitalia or even our chromosomal composition.  

People who are trans have a strong sense that their personal identity and gender do not correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth.  Children as young as three can know that who they are on the inside does not match what their bodies look like on the outside. The World Health Organization classifies this condition as gender incongruence.   For some children, especially those approaching puberty and beyond, this incongruence between the child’s gender identity and their assigned gender may cause them significant discomfort and distress, known as gender dysphoria.  Gender dysphoria is a condition recognized by both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. It is the condition for which trans people might seek a medical diagnosis and treatment.  

What are the health implications of gender dysphoria in children?  

Gender dysphoria poses serious health risks.  Children and adolescents who experience gender dysphoria are at increased risk for anxiety and depression, and are at high risk for self-injury and suicide.  Almost 84% of these children experience bullying related to their gender identity at school, resulting in social isolation, low self-esteem, and aversion to school.  Children with gender dysphoria are five times more likely to talk about or attempt suicide than other children.  As many as 45% of trans children engage in self-harm before the age of 20, with many of these individuals often targeting their genitals or breasts as physical reminders of the gender to which they feel they don’t belong.  

What is gender affirmation?  

Gender affirmation is the process through which a person receives support for their gender identity and expression.  The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has published standards of care to guide doctors and mental healthcare providers in reducing gender dysphoria in children.  These recommendations include allowing children to socially transition by living in their affirmed gender (changing their hairstyle, how they dress, using different pronouns, and perhaps using a different name).  Children approaching puberty may decide along with their parents and doctors to receive hormone blockers that will temporarily halt the development of physical characteristics that may be distressing for gender dysphoric youth.  The effects of these drugs are reversible, and puberty will resume when they are discontinued. Around age 16, older transgendered children may be eligible to receive hormone therapy, either estrogen or testosterone, that will help their bodies develop the characteristics that match their gender identity.  Children are not eligible for surgical transition. Gender reassignment surgery is only available to adults over the age of 18, and who have passed an intensive screening process.  

Why should we continue to allow doctors to provide gender-affirmation treatments to Kentucky’s trans children?  

Allowing trans children to affirm their gender is life-saving.  Receiving gender affirmation treatment significantly reduces the rate of suicidal ideations and self-harm in transgendered children.  Gender affirmation is the course of treatment recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for gender incongruence.  Medical treatments like hormones and puberty blockers can only be administered after a thorough discussion of the risks and benefits.  The decision for when and how to assist a transgendered child to transition to their affirmed gender is a decision that is made carefully and thoughtfully by the patient, the parents, and the physician together.  Children who are at risk for suicide and self-harm deserve supportive healthcare that is mutually agreed upon by the patient, their parents, and their physician. Legislation such as HB 321 that would put decisions about children’s healthcare in the hands of the government is dangerous and should not be enacted.  Protect trans kids; Oppose HB 321.  

On Wednesdays We #WearRed4Ed and KEEP OPPOSING HB350

Two weeks ago we asked you to show your opposition to Scholarship Tax Credits (HB350) by emailing your legislators and calling to leave a message for them on the Kentucky Legislative Hotline. You stepped up to the task, and we were able to register a substantial number of legislator contacts. That kind of coordinated effort from public school activists makes a real difference! 

The “school choice” advocates are still working hard to convince legislators to pass their Scholarship Tax Credit bill.  Watch this video from our Friends at People Over Politics KY to find out why vouchers are bad for Kentucky’s public schools.    

We need your help again today to keep up the pressure on legislators to vote NO on HB350. Please use this direct link to send an email to your legislators telling them to OPPOSE Scholarship Tax Credits in Kentucky. Even if your legislator is already committed to opposing HB 350, please send them an email anyway.  The volume of legislator contacts definitely matters.  

Click here to send an email or call 1-800-372-7181.  Our students deserve the very best. Our schools can’t afford to lose $25-50M in funding.  

Thank you for all you do for Kentucky schools!