We hope that everyone is safe and well with as little stress as possible during this COVID pandemic. We understand the worry and concern regarding your students, as well as the worry for your own families, our economic stability, and the harrowing reports coming from large metropolitan areas. Our prayers are with you, our state, and our nation.
Many districts are on spring break during this week, and we have heard numerous reports from those being asked to report back to work in the upcoming days. After spending an entire day in verifying national, state, and local guidelines, talking with legislators and administrators, and attempting to get clarification from KDE (which did not respond to our questions), we can tell you a few facts about being asked to report and to continue delivery of services. We have also done some research on unauthorized sources calling for employees to invoke "emergency leave."
At the federal level, guidelines have been implemented that "emergency leave" can be granted to someone who was exposed to the COVID virus, with a quarantine for 14 days. Anyone who has symptoms of the COVID virus can also be eligible for emergency leave, with isolation implemented.
However, at the state level, the Governor has not set forth any clear guidelines for a threshold mandating "emergency leave." He has mandated that schools are "Essential Services," meaning that school districts are not closed, and that NTI duties and food services are to remain in place. Currently, only your local school board can approve ANY leave for an employee, and your local school board must also set forth guidelines for that approved leave. The same board would also adopt policies regarding whether or not an employee would qualify for being paid during approved leave and the duration of same leave and pay. In addition to setting policy for the district and employees, every school district has been mandated TO CONTINUE TO DELIVER SERVICES TO STUDENTS. In order to continue to deliver mandated services, including special ed, GT, and 504, staff must continue to follow the direction of their administration and board policy until further guidelines are adopted by your local board of education. If you have questions, you must contact your local administration for their guidelines. Do not listen to rumor or conjecture. Follow local policy in order to remain being paid by your district.
There are 172 school districts in Kentucky. We at KAPE have no idea what each district will adopt for approved emergency leave. Boards must meet and decide how they will continue to keep schools delivering services during this pandemic while protecting their employees and administrators. We have verified that many districts are following CDC guidelines in limiting contact with students and families, isolating paperwork, as well as limiting contact within their buildings among employees. Local health departments are guiding districts in their practices.
The Ethics Commission in Frankfort closed the Capitol to non-essential personnel almost a month ago to prevent contact with legislators and staff. ALL lobbyists, visitors, or any other non-essential person were barred from having any type of meeting with legislators or their staff, and KAPE continued to monitor the session from KET CCTV. Yesterday, April 1, a final budget was completed by the General Assembly and will be submitted to the Governor. This final budget keeps SEEK funding at the 2018-19 level, provided no raises to any state employee or teacher, maintains single healthcare coverage for retirees, and estimated that between $160-175 million shortfall would happen in this budget cycle. Furthermore, the General Assembly constructed a budget only for one year in order to have more accurate projections for incoming funds. A second year's budget will be constructed either by special session or during the 2021 session. The Governor now has until April 13 to either veto or sign the budget and all other bills that were passed. On April 14-15, the General Assembly will meet to override any vetoes.
We advise our members to contact your local administrators for truth and information regarding your reporting and district policies. Every administrator we have spoken with has been more than accommodating in explaining their own concerns and expectations. Please have a dialogue within your district with those who are doing their best to deliver essential services. You are more valued than you realize, and we at KAPE certainly value our members immensely. We will be glad to answer questions that we can help with, but if you have questions about your local policy, we urge you to contact your supervisor or administrator.
As of last Wednesday, March 18, all public school districts in KY had submitted their NTI plans to the state BOE to be approved, which they were. Currently, legislation is being approved to allow schools unlimited NTI days, as they have been statutorily allowed only 10 days. Other legislation is being worked on to guarantee funding to schools during this crisis. It's a process, and it takes time to get the legislation passed.
The General Assembly shut down March 13 and 16. They convened March 17-19, and then adjourned until March 26. On March 19, the Senate passed their version of the state budget. The House had previously passed their version. It is now up to legislators in both chambers to hammer out a compromise before they submit it to the Governor by April 2. The Governor has until April 13 to veto what he will not sign. The GA will then meet again April 14-15 to override any vetoes.
Please understand how our state constitution works. If the GA adjourned sine die after giving a budget to the Governor at this time, they would lose the power to override any vetoes. The leadership of both chambers has asked the Governor to allow a special session for them to return to override his vetoes if they adjourn sine die now. At this time, the Governor has refused to do so. Therefore, the Legislative leadership has stated that they will not adjourn sine die until the constitutionally required dates. According to the constitution, the people are directly represented by the Legislature. The people would lose a final say in the budget process if the Legislature is not given their powers to override the Governor's vetoes.
If you have comments or opinions for your legislator, please contact them at 800-372-7181 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There have been numerous questions from across the state regarding their local district's decision in how they are using NTI for the current school closures during the Coronavirus emergency. Here is what districts are deciding upon:
NTI is an instructional option that several school districts across the state have implemented, and it is usually required that districts apply for that opportunity before the school year begins. However, due to the recent declaration of emergency by the Governor, the Department of Education is asking the state Board of Education at their meeting next week to give a blanket waiver to school districts across the state. This has not been approved yet, but it is expected to happen. In addition, the Governor has recommended that staff be permitted to stay home as well, but it is not a mandate. Currently, NTI instruction may be used for only 10 school days.
In order to receive an NTI waiver, the application must first be approved by the district's local board of education. Districts must have included in the application their plans to deliver instruction, as well as how they plan to record student participation. The plans will include how staff will participate and how they will interact with the students. It would be up to each individual district how to plan for their staff, because if staff is not participating in NTI or student interaction, you would have to make those days up per your contract. If staff does participate in daily NTI, those days would count as contractual work days. Again, it is up to each individual district in how the local board of education decides to implement an NTI waiver and continue instruction.
School districts across the state are calling off school attendance in many varied ways. There is no blanket plan across the Commonwealth because your local school district is responsible for their plan. Many districts have no previous plan in place because they have not applied for participation in the 2019-20 year. Therefore, many districts have to get this developed, in writing, and then approved by their local boards before announcing to the public.
We are hoping everyone stays well. We understand this is going to be a tremendous burden for working parents and their childcare arrangements. Be safe!