A group of parents has appealed a decision by a Louisville high school to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sexual identities.
The Courier-Journal reports the Atherton High School site-based decision-making council will meet next week to discuss the appeal, which was filed by Louisville attorney Clinton Elliott, who is with the Christian-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.
The council voted last month to amend its policy after school Principal Thomas Aberli decided to allow a transgender student to use the girls' restroom and locker room. The student was born male but identifies as female.
The appeal says the school panel's decision was "inconsistent with state and federal law, inconsistent with concerns for safety and inconsistent with concerns for liability."
The WKU Board of Regents has approved a budget that gets nearly half of its funding from student tuition and fees. By a 9-2 vote Friday morning, regents passed a $392 million spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
The new budget contains a $3.1 million dollar cut to Academic Affairs, which includes the elimination of 26 vacant faculty positions.
WKU History Professor and Faculty Regent Patti Minter was one of the two who voted against the budget. She said while some can argue it makes sense that academic departments face the toughest cuts since they have the largest overall piece of the budget, such decisions are harming WKU’s ability to attract and retain the best teachers and researchers.
“All of this would impact the students negatively,” Dr. Minter told WKU Public Radio. “Because this is the core mission, this is why Dr. Cherry built this college on a hill in 1906. And as he said in the depths of the depression, in these times we have to cut out all the extracurriculars, and we have to get back to the basics, which if the academic mission.”
Less than 19 percent of the next WKU budget comes from state funding, with nearly 49 percent made up of student tuition and fees.
As part of the budget, the Regents also approved a 4.8 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduate students, who will now pay nearly $4,600 per semester. The spending plan also includes a one percent cost-of living adjustment for WKU employees, with a minimum increase of $500 per worker.
WKU President Gary Ransdell told reporters after Friday’s regents meeting that declining state funding for higher education is a trend that has to be reversed soon.
“If we can get to the point we’ve gotten beyond state budget cuts, that would be a modest satisfaction. The victory will be if we can finally get Kentucky to invest in higher education, because it’s been now six years.”
WKU Health Services Deal Imminent
In addition to passing a budget, WKU regents were also told the school is close to signing an agreement with Graves Gilbert Clinic to run the campus Health Services operation which serves students, faculty, and staff. The school announced in March it would seek to privatize the campus facility, with an estimated savings of $1.1 million dollars.
Kentucky is poised to receive federal grant money to improve broadband speeds in public schools.
The Federal Communication Commission’s E-rate program provides $2.4 billion dollars annually to schools across the country to modernize Internet accessibility.
Now that the FCC has pledged an additional $2 billion for the next two years, Kentucky educators are poised to get a $22 million slice of that pie.
Associate Commissioner of the state’s Office of Next Generation Learners, Amanda Ellis, says the money will improve connectivity to wireless devices that can download video lessons for students to watch at home.
“Students have the opportunity to watch videos in the evening, or after school. And when they go into their classrooms, and their teachers work from what they learned online. That’s not accessible to a lot of people even in the school setting, because it’s not fast enough.”
The FCC is expected to make a decision on the funds next month.
Students at Kentucky's community and technical colleges are facing higher tuition costs the next two years. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System's Board of Regents approved a budget for the upcoming academic year that includes a nearly 2.1% tuition increase for in-state students.
The Board approved a $924.1 million budget for the state-wide system of 16 colleges and more than 70 campuses for the next year.
Board members approved higher in-state tuition rates for the next two academic years. For the next school year, tuition will go up from $144 per credit hour to $147. In-state tuition for the 2015-16 academic year will be $150 per credit hour.
The Presidents of Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education and Western Kentucky University are among those joining a nationwide coalition in support of the Common Core State Standards.
CPE President Bob King and WKU’s Gary Ransdell are pledging their support to the group Higher Ed for Higher Standards. Along with Dr. Ransdell, four other university presidents in Kentucky joined the group: Eli Capilouto of the University of Kentucky, Tim Miller of Murray State, Michael Benson of Eastern Kentucky, and Wayne Andrews of Morehead State.
Nine Kentucky Community and Technical College presidents are also members of the coalition.
The goal of the Common Core is to create consistent educational standards across states and to make sure those graduating high school are ready to enter either post-secondary education institutions or the workforce. Higher Ed for Higher Standards say it believes Common Core standards will help universities reduce the number of students who have to enroll in remedial classes once they’re on campus, as well as increase graduation rates.
“I agree with the Council on Postsecondary Education and with the Kentucky Department of Education, in that these standards set a level of expectation of our students, and of their teachers, and of their parents for support, that we need to keep our country up with world education standards," said Dr. Kris Williams, President of Henderson Community College and a member of the coalition.
Opponents of Common Core says the standards present a “one size fits all” approach to education. Last month, the Indiana Board of Education voted to scrap the state’s Common Core program and implement a new set of educational standards.
You can read NPR's FAQ page about the Common Core standards here.
School districts throughout Kentucky will spend the summer putting the finishing touches on new science curriculum. State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday announced this week that what’s known as the Next Generation Science Standards will be implemented this fall.
Kentucky is one of 26 states that recently worked to develop the new standards.
Next Generation puts greater emphasis on subjects such as physical science, life sciences, earth science, and engineering.
Some school districts across the state have gotten a head start in getting the new standards in place.
“In Barren County, we have already started the implementation, with about half of our grades having made the transition last year, and the other half to make the transition this year,” said Scott Harper, director of instruction and technology for Barren County Schools.
Jennifer Davis, director of elementary and secondary programs for Bowing Green Independent Schools, says the content that students will experience next school year goes beyond learning basic scientific concepts.
“With the new standards, it’s not just a focus on core ideas, but also engineering practices, concepts as to how science is applied in the real world,” Davis told WKU Public Radio. “It’s really about how to teach kids to think scientifically.”
Right now, America's schools are in a sprint. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards. That means new learning benchmarks for the vast majority of the nation's young students — millions of kids from kindergarten through high school. And, for many of them, the Core Standards will feel tougher than what they're used to. Because they are tougher.
A new pioneer has just planted its flag on the ed-tech frontier: the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Its government this week announced the creation of a "national knowledge network" to promote free online learning in partnership with Khan Academy and Coursera. The initiative is part of a broader national strategy of investment in education.
A group of Louisville teachers plans to file a class-action lawsuit claiming the governor and Kentucky General Assembly violated a contractual obligation by deliberately underfunding the teachers' retirement fund by billions of dollars.
Lebanon attorney Theodore Lavit said the lawsuit will name Governor Steve Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo as defendants in the suit. The potential plaintiffs will seek $11 billion to restore money to the underfunded Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which covers about 140,000 teachers across the state, according to sources familiar with the prospective case.
"Some experts believe that in four, maybe five years, at the present funding rate, that it'll be impossible to recapture what's needed," Lavit told Kentucky Public Radio. "There are quite a few teachers upset about the present state of affairs."
Currently, the KTRS pension is funded at about 50 percent, placing it well below what experts say is a pension's proper balance of its assets to its unfunded liabilities—the difference between how much money it has on-hand versus how much it has to pay out in benefits.
Put another way: It's the difference between how much money a household has in its bank account versus how much it owes on its credit card bills. KTRS has about $13.9 billion in such unfunded liabilities—a number that is expected to swell exponentially to about $23 billion in 2015 when new federal accounting standards kick in, according to the most recent numbers.