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Williams And Rand Discuss Schools, Immigration At Forum

Some of the bills passed by the Kentucky Senate during the opening week of the General Assembly may not move forward in the House. One leading Democrat says several of the GOP’s top pieces of legislation are either nearly dead or unlikely to pass a full vote.

Democratic Representative and House Appropriations Chair Rick Rand appeared opposite Senate President David Williams at the Louisville Forum Wednesday. Williams spoke favorably of several bills that have passed the Republican-led Senate, including the neighborhood schools bill and an Arizona-style immigration bill.

But Rand says the legislation won’t gain much support in the House, and aside from some updates to the budget, this legislative session could be one of impasse.

“It’s going to be, depending on how willing the Senate is to compromise on anything, obviously we’re not going to pass any of them like they are,” he says. “We’re just going to have to wait and see. We just got the bills last Friday.”

Rand says House members are reviewing several GOP bills from the Senate and considering whether to give them committee hearings and whether to modify them.

But Williams is standing by the legislation. He co-sponsored the neighborhood schools bill, which would give students priority enrollment at the schools closest to their homes and would allow charter schools to be established.

Opponents say it would dismantle the JCPS student assignment plan and failing schools in Louisville are already heavily attended by students who live nearby. But Williams says the district can’t help those schools, because officials are distracted by the assignment plan.

“The approach that they’re taking now is failing the children of Jefferson County,” he says. “They’re spending all this money to try to…It’s a charade! Now, diversity is a goal that is worthy, but you can get diversity with magnet schools and other approaches.”

Williams is one of two Republican candidates running for governor. Jefferson County Teachers Association president Brent McKim says Williams’s support of the bill is a political ploy.

“With any assignment plan, you’re never going to have 100% of the parents happy,” says McKim. “Just like any schedule you make for a school year, it interferes with someone’s wedding or someone’s vacation. You’ll never have everyone happy and I think those legitimate frustrations are being preyed upon by Senator Williams.”

The legislation has passed the Republican-led Senate, but House Democrats say it’s unlikely to move forward.

The full forum:

Audio MP3

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Berman Confident Schools Bill Won’t Survive In House

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sheldon Berman says he has “a good deal of confidence” that a neighborhood schools bill that cleared the state Senate Friday won’t survive in the House.

The Republican-sponsored bill would allow students to attend the school closest to their homes if they choose.

Berman says the legislation would dismantle the JCPS desegregation plan and undermine local control of school districts.

“We should not be legislating-in Frankfort-local decisions about student assignment when the board and the community know best what kind of plan we should have,” he said Friday.

The bill was prompted in part by complaints from some Jefferson County parents about long bus rides their children have to endure under the assignment plan.

The chairman of the House Education Committee tells the Courier-Journal that the bill has little chance of passing his Democratic-led chamber.

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Neighborhood Schools Measure Clears Senate Panel

The full Kentucky Senate will vote Friday on a neighborhood schools bill.

The measure, co-sponsored by Republicans Dan Seum and David Williams, would allow children to attend the public school closest to their home.

The bill was prompted in part by complaints from some parents in Jefferson County about long bus rides their children have to endure under the school district’s student assignment plan.

School officials say the bill would dismantle years of efforts to desegregate Louisville schools, and cost the district tens of millions of dollars to implement.

The measure cleared the Senate Education Committee 8-5 Thursday on a strict party line vote.

If the bill clears the full, Republican-led Senate, it will face a tough battle in the Democratic-controlled House.