Bills propose shake-up for Ky. counties

Published 1:19 pm Friday, January 26, 2018

Massive changes could possibly be on the horizon for the Kentucky counties and schools statewide — and that includes the Bell County School District as well as the independent Middlesboro and Pineville City Schools.

Toby Herald, a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from Beattyville, recently proposed a radical change to school districts across the Commonwealth. Herald represents the 91st House district, which includes Breathitt, Estill, Lee and Owsley counties as well as part of Madison County.

The bill, titled House Bill 242, would significantly narrow down the independent and county school districts from 173 to merely 55. It would effectively abolish existing local boards of education.

An article from The Ledger Independent in Maysville details the basics of the bill. In essence, the passing of the bill would see the consolidation of these districts and would yield larger districts — all with elected representatives from said dissolved districts. These new districts would have a superintendent appointed by the commissioner of education.

The article goes on to highlight the responses from various superintendents from counties all over the state — all of which voiced their displeasure with the bill, citing the various perceived shortcomings and issues they find within it.

Middlesboro Schools Superintendent Waylon Allen said about the matter, “Regarding House Bill 242, I have not had the opportunity to fully research the bill, but given what I have read, I do not think realigning our school and county boundaries is necessarily the solution to our budget issues. However, due to the declining population, we are going to have to think outside of the box when dealing with funding. We need to thoroughly research our alternatives and what effects they would have on our community before making decisions.”

Going further, Herald has also sponsored House Bill 243. That bill, in essence, proposes to consolidate 100 counties into 34. Larger counties, such as Fayette, Jefferson, Warren and Pike, would remain unchanged.

If the bill is approved by the Kentucky Legislature, the counties could be renamed and local governments would consolidate.

House Bill 243 is co-sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, of Erlanger, who represents the 69th House District which includes parts of Boone and Kenton counties.