Breaking Down Senate Bill 441

April 27th, 2019

Thursday was the final day to pass bills from their opposite chamber, so any Senate bills the House didn’t vote on are now dead for the remainder of session. To get through as many as possible, the House spent hours on the floor each day this week to consider hundreds of bills. In total, the House passed nearly 300 Senate Bills and Senate Joint Resolutions before deadline.

One notable bill the House considered this week was Senate Bill 441, which deals with options for school calendars. There has been some confusing and misinformation being spread about the bill, and I want to take time to fully explain it and why I voted for it.

Originally, I was against this bill when it was introduced in the Senate because it eliminated the four day school weeks and I believe that schools should be able to choose what works best for their students, teachers and families at the local level. As a former school board member, I firmly believe that local control is the best approach to deciding policy for our public schools.

However, SB441 underwent several changes since it was introduced in the Senate, and it now looks very different from when it was filed. The first draft required all schools adhere to a five day school week, but after amendments, the version the House voted on doesn’t require five day weeks, nor does it prohibit four day weeks. Instead, it allows for three different calendar options to be decided by the local districts which gives the local control that I think is important back to each school district and community.

The first option is the current calendar of 180 days of classroom instruction. The second option is 1,080 hours of classroom instruction to be completed in a minimum of 165 days, which includes 7 days for professional development and parent/teacher conferences.

The third option would set 1,080 hours of classroom instruction with no minimum number of days. If a four day school that currently goes less than 165 days meets acceptable state student outcome standards and shows they save money by going four days, they can apply for an exemption, which means they can continue with their current calendar and would not have to meet the minimum 165 days.

If the bill becomes law, these state outcome and cost saving standards for the exemption would be developed by the Dept. of Education through a working group. Once decided by the group, the Legislature must approve the rules before they go into effect. If we don’t approve the rules, the policy wouldn’t go into effect until the group develops other standards that the Legislature does approve which adds another layer of accountability to ensure these rules are fair and reasonable.

These choices allow districts to retain even more control than before by presenting several different calendar possibilities. It will still allow local districts to decide how to set their calendar based on what works best for them, while also ensuring our students are receiving proper classroom time. District 51 is home to a couple four-day schools, which, under SB441, would only need to add approximately 13 days to their calendar to meet this minimum requirement if they do not receive an exemption.

It’s important to note that, if this does become law, the 165 day minimum would be the second lowest required amount of school days in the U.S. This is a wonderful recruitment tool to bring talented teachers to our state.

SB441 also included a $1,200 teacher pay raise, which the House added to the bill. Although the House previously passed a $1,200 across-the-board pay increase for teachers, the bill was stalled in the Senate and was not heard on the floor before Thursday’s deadline.

If I voted against the bill, our teachers may not receive another pay raise this year. This bill is our best path forward to approving the Governor’s requested $1,200 teacher pay raise, which helps retain teachers by offering a competitive salary and improves outcomes for our state’s children.

There’s no such thing as a perfect bill, but after much consideration, those reasons are why I chose to vote in favor of SB441. It allows schools to still maintain local control of their calendar and they can choose whether to attend four or five days a week based on what works best for their community while still ensuring our students meet educational standards they need to succeed in life and gives teachers a $1,200 pay raise. Since the bill was amended in the House, it must be approved by the Senate again before it moves on to the Governor.

As always, please reach out with questions or concerns about legislation at (580) 641-3153 or God Bless.

Rep. Brad Boles