As someone who was homeschooled K-12 and participated in various nontraditional educational programs, I can attest that doing school from home requires a significant commitment from both the student and parents. To be done well, nontraditional education usually requires the student and parents to spend hours researching the best options, preparing adequate space in the house for studying, and getting involved in some sort of extracurricular activity or service. It’s not something that can be done overnight. But Governor Beshear’s lockdowns have forced thousands of families around the Commonwealth to pivot into nontraditional education without regard for families’ individual needs, abilities, and resources. You know this—we’ve lived it for a year and you’re probably used to hearing about how unsatisfactory education is under this “state of emergency.”

But there’s a new development in the tragic farce of school during COVID-19. Representative Regina Huff, Representative Scott Lewis, and Representative Ed Massey are sponsoring a bill that would take away the limit on how many days a school can require nontraditional instruction (NTI). The standards for how schools can implement NTI days are incredibly vague and demonstrate little care for students’ education. For example, HB 208 says that daily participation for NTI must only include one of the following: a one-on-one video or phone session between the student and teacher, a group video or phone call, submission of a paper-based assignment, or student time on an online learning platform. A student could spend hours in an active online class doing as much work as he could, or a student could spend ten minutes filling out an online worksheet—it’s all the same under HB 208. And this can go on for the whole school year.

The Kentucky public school system is forcing families with school children to fly by the seat of their pants instead of allowing them to cultivate a stable and reliable system conducive to a good education. It’s time to demand that schools deliver an education worthy of our tax dollars. This is not about protecting students from the virus—school-age children make up a miniscule percentage of Kentucky’s COVID deaths. HB 208 fails to protect students’ mental health, which is suffering due to the lockdowns and isolation. It fails to hold students to a meaningful standard of education, which cripples their futures. Tell your legislators to oppose HB 208 unless significant amendments (such as those proposed by Representative Felicia Rabourn) are approved. Call Boone County Representative Ed Massey (502-564-8100 ext 632) and tell him we’re disappointed that he endorsed this bill. It’s been a difficult year, but the solution isn’t to drop standards and send the message that education is only about checking meaningless boxes to receive funding. Kentucky students deserve better. 

Submitted as an op-ed to River City News