Last week’s special session entered our minds and news feeds as quickly as it has now disappeared. Alongside the Beshear Administration and members of the General Assembly, we will continue to assess the results with an eye for the 2022 legislative session and two-year state budget.

As we shared in our statement on the special session, there is no group of Kentuckians that deserves decisive action more than our young people – and the good news is that call to action was heard loud and clear by our leaders in Frankfort. There’s also missed opportunities for policies and budget priorities that would help kids and families.

What bills impacting kids passed?

  • As mentioned in our special session update blog post, House Joint Resolution 1 passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor.
  • Also, Senate Bills 1 and 2 passed the Senate and House chambers and were vetoed by the Governor, but both Chambers overrode those vetoes.
  • Senate Bill 3 passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor.

Here’s a recap of what was in the bills that passed:

  • House Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by House Speaker David Osborne and Representative Steven Rudy, extends or expires certain emergency orders set by Governor Beshear and extends the public health emergency through January 15, 2022.
  • Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate Education Chair Senator Max Wise, relates to the delivery of education, care, and safety for children. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has released a guidance document to support schools and districts as they implement SB 1.
    • Eliminates emergency regulations that mandate masks statewide for childcare facilities and K-12 schools.
    • Allows local school districts and childcare facilities to set their masking policies.
    • Requires each school district to have COVID-19 operations plan in place. These plans must be submitted to Kentucky Department of Education for informational purposes and for it to be published.
    • The Department for Public Health will develop a COVID-19 “test to stay” model school plan that can be implemented by school districts, in whole or in part. The model plan will include guidance for contact tracing and quarantining based on whether or not exposed individuals were masked, non-masked, or fully vaccinated. Districts wishing to implement a test to stay model can review the information on the DPH’s K-12 School COVID Testing Program webpage and contact their local health departments.
    • At the discretion of the superintendent, school districts may temporarily assign students at the school, grade, classroom, or student group level to remote instruction due to COVID-19 pandemic until December 31st.
    • Remote instruction can be provided to a particular school, grade, classroom or group of students for up to 20 days.
    • The General Assembly intends to enact legislation in the 2022 General Session to address the adjustment of SEEK calculations.
    • Requires all certified and classified staff designated to perform work duties on-site during nontraditional instruction day unless employee is quarantined due to COVID-19.
    • For the 2021-2022 school year, a local school district can employ individuals to serve as a short or long-term substitute teacher. The individual must comply with the background checks required.
    • Students will receive a minimum of 1,062 instructional hours. A day should not exceed seven hours of instruction time unless the district submitted and received approval from the Commissioner of Education.
    • KDE will report to the Interim Joint Committee on Education by November 1, 2022 on how schools’ districts with revised school calendars completed 1,062 hours.
  • Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Senate President Stivers, relates to protocols for the COVID-19 emergency.
    • Eliminates emergency regulation for statewide mask mandate.
    • The Cabinet for Health Family Services will assist and support hospitals, licensed health care providers, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, local health departments and other entities in developing a plan, acquiring, and distributing of COVID-19 tests by October 1,2021.
    • The Cabinet for Health Family Services will produce public service announcements providing information about symptoms and effects of COVID-19, develop and initiate public awareness campaign encouraging Kentuckians to talk with their doctors about getting vaccinated, and partner with universities, colleges and health care organizations including individual athletes, coaches, physicians and nurses. This must happen by October 8, 2021 and continue until January 31, 2022.
    • Improve access to COVID-19 vaccinations and reduce disparities by expanding distribution of vaccine to primary care providers.
    • The Cabinet for Health Family Services to support established and new COVID-19 antibody administration centers (CAACs) by developing protocols and equip with supplies by October 1, 2021.
  • Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Senate President Stivers, allocates $69 million of American Rescue Plan Act dollars in fiscal year 2021-2022 to address the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting pressures that have been experienced in the healthcare, long-term care, and school systems. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services will submit to the Legislative Research Commission and Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare, and Family Services by December 15, 2021, a report of all expenditures used.

With January quickly approaching, there is immense opportunity for an expansive and equitable pandemic recovery for all Kentucky kids and their families. And we call on local school boards to adhere to guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control around how best to keep kids safely in school and support COVID-19 vaccination efforts in their districts.

Kids count on their leaders in Frankfort – and in their communities – to speak up for them and make decisions that will keep them healthy, safe, and hopeful.