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Kentucky schools may put spotlight on Bible


FRANKFORT — Galatians, Ephesians and Corinthians would be in the spotlight under legislation that easily cleared the House Education Committee Feb 21.

The measure calls for the Kentucky Department of Education to develop policies that allow public schools to offer elective courses in Bible literacy.

Lawmakers focused heavily on education legislation, as did Gov. Matt Bevin who called a press conference to encourage passage of legislation that would allow publicly funded charter schools in Kentucky.

The Bible literacy bill has been garnering most of the attention.

“I don’t think there is another document in the history of our culture, that has had more impact on our culture, our society or our values, than the Bible,” said Rep. D.J. Johnson, the Owensboro Republican who is sponsoring the measure. “Historically, it is probably the most impactful literary document that’s ever been written.”

Familiarity with the Bible, Johnson said, is necessary for understanding American history and culture.

“The areas and aspects of life that it touches on goes from government policy, music, poetry, prose, literature styles, historical content,” he said. “It literally impacts everything we do in high school. Because of that, having a course on Bible literacy as a social studies course, will, without question, enrich the academic lives of our students.”

The Bible literacy bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.

Bevin, joined by Education Secretary Hal Heiner and House Education Committee Chairman John “Bam” Carney, appeared at a joint press conference to put their combined clout behind the charter school bill that is facing stiff opposition from the Kentucky Education Association, which represents the state’s public school teachers.

“Traditional public schools will always be the main source to deliver education in Kentucky,” Carney said. “But in saying that, it is not the perfect case for every child, and it’s past time for Kentucky to join 43 other states that allow other models that will meet the needs of every student.”

Carney is sponsoring the legislation that gives local school boards the power to authorize charter schools under regulations and accountability standards written by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Heiner said there are currently 6,700 charter schools across the nation, serving 3 million students with another 1 million on waiting lists.

The House Education Committee also discussed but took no vote on a proposal to establish an income tax credit for non-profit organizations that provide tuition assistance to primary and secondary students in private schools.

Carney is sponsoring the bill intended to benefit students whose families have incomes of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level or who have qualifying medical conditions.

Tom Troth, a lobbyist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said the measure could help institutions like Oneida Baptist Institute in rural eastern Kentucky.

“One of the primary focuses of Oneida is assisting children with behavioral issues, both at home and at school,” Troth said.

The bill has been assigned to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee because of its potential financial impact on state tax revenue. (KT)

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