Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama joined WFPL News in summer 2011. He adds to the newsroom a diverse perspective having lived and reported in major cities across the U.S. and spending time in Peru reporting on human trafficking. Devin earned the 2011 Studs Terkel Community Media Scholarship Award for his report on homeless youth in Chicago. He reports on education affairs in Kentucky and Indiana.

KFC Yum! Center

Because melting snow and heavy rain have caused flooding around the Louisville waterfront, city officials are urging fans heading to the KFC Yum Center for NCAA Tournament games this week to arrive early.

“There are still a number of parking spaces that are flooded. A number of roadways that are blocked or closed and construction as well,” said Sandra Moran, Yum Center marketing director.

The parking garages underneath the arena and at the Galt House are open for business, she said. And if fans aren’t parking in either of those lots they should try to avoid west Interstate 64’s Third Street ramp, which reopened Tuesday after flooding, because traffic congestion is expected in that area, said Moran.

“Have a plan and look at a couple of different garages that you might try to park at because there will be limited space during the day with the business traffic that’s going to be downtown as well,” she said.

The Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will recognize same-sex marriage for all of its congregations.

The top Presbyterian legislative body endorsed the new wording last year, but amending the church’s constitution required approval from the majority of regional bodies, called presbyteries. That majority was reached Tuesday with a favorable vote by New Jersey’s Presbytery of the Palisades, according to the Associated Press.

The denomination will expand its definition of marriage in the church constitution to say that marriage is a “commitment between two people.”

The Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, made up of more than 50 congregations, voted earlier this month in favor of the change. As WFPL reported, not everyone is expected to be happy about the decision.

Rev. Dr. Peggy Hinds, associate general presbyter for the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, said at the time: “We have a lot of congregations who, this will upset them if this passes. We have other congregations wondering why it’s taken this long.”

KFC Yum! Center

Fans heading to the KFC Yum Center in Louisville for NCAA basketball games are being urged to get their early.

Melting snow and heavy rain has caused flooding in areas around the Waterfront.

Yum Center director of marketing Sandra Moran says the parking garages under the arena and at the Galt House are open for business.

She says if fans aren’t parking there they should try to avoid I-64’s Third Street ramp because of congestion.

“Have a plan and look at a couple of different garages that you might try to park at because there will be limited space during the day with the business traffic that’s going to be downtown as well," urged Moran.

Four games are scheduled for Thursday, including the University of Kentucky’s opener against Hampton.

Emil Moffatt

Forecasters expect the Ohio River to remain above flood stage for most of this week after reaching its highest level in two decades on Sunday morning.

Robert Szappamos with the National Weather Service in Louisville says the river has crested in both the upper and lower parts of the McAlpine Dam.

“Over the next few days will begin a slow fall, so the worst of the flooding is what you have right now," Szappamos commented.

Forecasters say the river will be above its 52-foot flood stage until late Thursday.

Melted snow and rainfalls have caused flooding that swamped roads, businesses and homes in scattered low-lying areas across the region.

A date has been set for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments for same-sex marriage cases in Kentucky and three other states. 

The Court says it will make audio and an unofficial transcript of the April 28 hearing available on its website the same day. 

Attorneys on both sides will get 90 minutes to argue whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry everywhere in the U.S.  Another hour will be devoted to whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. 

A decision is expected before July.

Flickr Creative Commons

A voluntary survey that Kentucky teachers take every two years is now available online.

It’s known as the Kentucky TELL survey and its meant to measure what teachers think of their schools, resources, leadership and community support. If a majority of teachers at a particular school take the survey, then that school can use the data as part of its ongoing improvement plan.

Nearly 90 percent of teachers across the state took the survey in 2013. If found that many teachers thought poorly of their schools access to technology. Also, half of respondents wanted more professional development on the new standards known as common core. 

The education department says legislators and policymakers may also use the information to develop and implement changes.

The voluntary and anonymous survey is open until March 31.

The Mid-Kentucky Presbytery as voted this weekend to approve a same-sex marriage amendment to the national church’s constitution.

The presbytery includes more than 50 congregations from Kentucky. Its vote on Saturday will count as just one of 172 presbyteries that make up Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which is headquartered in Louisville.

Representatives from presbyteries across the country are voting whether to rewrite language in the national church’s constitution that would recognize love as being between two people instead of between a man and a woman.

A majority of the presbyteries that have already voted have supported the amendment. Those include the Presbytery of Transylvania in eastern Kentucky.

The vote Saturday was 97 in favor, 9 against, and 1 abstention, according to Rev. Dr. Peggy Hinds, associate general presbyter for Mid-Kentucky Presbytery.

Five Kentucky school districts have created the state’s first regional career and technical academy, where high school students will learn advanced manufacturing and technology skills.

The goal of the I-Lead Academy is for students to earn a work certificate or dual credit for college, and possibly an associate’s degree, while in high school, said Alicia Sells with the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, which helped develop the school.

The school will be located in Carrollton and will offer up to 30 spots a year to freshman students from Carroll, Gallatin, Henry, Owen and Trimble counties beginning next fall.

In four years, the school will have an attendance of around 120 students, said Sells. They’ll attend the Jefferson Community and Technical College campus in Carrollton full time as juniors and seniors.

To create the school, OVEC researched which jobs are in demand in the region, she said.

As the dropout age increases to 18 for most Kentucky public schools next academic year, the state education department will be closely monitoring its data.

Among the indicators that will be watched is the number of students who opt out for homeschooling.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says currently, less than 1 percent of the public school population is opting out each year.

He says the education department will use that number to measure against future data.

“We want to carefully monitor and make sure that we don’t see a significant spike in home school," added Holliday.

Holliday says the agency will primarily monitor students age 16 and above, who will soon be required to stay in public school.

Holliday says the department will also monitor grade retention, alternative and career and technical school participation and student behaviors.

The number of Kentucky children who are prepared for kindergarten is nearly unchanged over last year—half of kids entering school still don’t have the basic skills that the state deems as necessary to be “kindergarten-ready.”

The Kentucky Department of Education’s annual kindergarten readiness results released Wednesday show that 50 percent of children are prepared for a public education, a 1 percent increase from last year.

In Jefferson County Public Schools, 51.9 percent of children were ready for kindergarten this school year.

Last year, 52.3 percent of Jefferson County Public Schools’ kindergartners were ready—a higher rate than the state average, which was 49 percent. While that rate is still slightly higher than the state average, it’s a slight drop for JCPS.

A new study suggests that toxic algae blooms found in lakes around the country—including in Kentucky-- may play an active role in creating their own favorable conditions.

Cyanobacteria are toxic blue-green algae, and can cause illness and irritation in humans and animals. They thrive in warmer waters with ample amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.

Last summer, regulators issued advisories for 15 lakes in the commonwealth that were known to have harmful algae blooms.

Dartmouth College biology professor Kathryn Cottingham co-authored the study, which suggests that algae can also create its own nutrients.

“They are capable of creating new nitrogen in the system by accessing nitrogen that’s currently in the atmosphere in forms that other organisms can’t use," explained Cottingham.  "They bring it into their bodies and they turn it into a form of nitrogen that can grow more of them, or more of somebody else.”

A lot of the excess nutrients in watersheds come from sources like fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants. Cottingham says the best solution is making sure that the pollution never gets into the water in the first place.

A Jefferson County Public Schools teacher has filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System over its lack of funding.

Plaintiff and DuPont Manual High School teacher Randolph Wieck says the system that supports over 140,000 teachers in Kentucky is at least $20 billion dollars in debt.

“We have raced to the bottom and we’re neck and neck with the worst funded teachers plan in the country," commented Wieck.

The KTRS pension is funded at around 50 percent. Both the Federal Government Accounting Office and the rating service Standard and Poor’s show Kentucky’s pension system is not sustainable.

The state legislature is not poised to discuss budget issues during the 2015 general assembly, but Wieck says Kentucky is violated its duty to keep the pension system solvent.

The latest pension report is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.

The presidents of Kentucky’s two largest universities have joined opposition to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The American Studies Association passed a controversial resolution last month that rejects Israel’s policies against Palestine and calls on members to boycott the country’s colleges and universities.

That’s drawn a sharp response from U.S. college presidents and education groups who oppose any such ban.

Last week, University of Louisville President James Ramsey said any boycott could hinder academic collaboration and prevent positive outcomes, like cures for new diseases.

This week, University of Kentucky President Eli Capiluto joined Ramsey and nearly 200 other college presidents, saying campuses should by a place for civil discourse and dialog.

“I think the opportunity to foster those discussions on a campus should be something that is precious," the UK president said.

A non-partisan economic policy group has released a report showing large gaps in per-student funding among school districts that approved tax increases this year.

A majority of Kentucky school boards approved the maximum 4 percent property tax increase to help fund public schools. The state hasn’t raised per-pupil funding for a number of years.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy report shows that some districts like Southgate Independent Schools in northern Kentucky will receive an additional $200 more per student through property taxes. While other counties like Bath County, in eastern Kentucky, will only receive $24 more per student.

“One of the consequences of that is that we’re going to make the gap between rich and poor schools even larger," said Jason Bailey, Director of the Center for Economic Policy.

Several school boards have joined Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday in calling on lawmakers to restore state education funding to pre-recession levels.

A group of education organizations will meet in Lexington Thursday to prepare for their campaign to better fund public education in Kentucky.

Stu Silberman, the executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, says it's the first time the various groups that make up the Kentucky Education Action Team will rally around a single message

“Each group will a lot of times go in with their individual legislative agendas and they don’t always match up. So the legislators sometimes feel like, well you all don’t even know what you want.”

The Prichard Committee is one of several education groups that will participate in the fall summit, where members will discuss the funding requests being made. Silberman says representatives will take the information back to their regions and develop an action plan to reach community members and lawmakers.

The group will be asking for over $250 million dollars over the next two-year  budget to restore funding levels to the 2008 school year.

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