education

The Henderson County school system is preparing to begin random drug-testing. 

Starting in the 2017-18 school year, middle and high school students who participate in extra-curricular activities and those applying for a parking permit will be subject to the testing. 

Band Director Adam Thomas says he hopes the new policy will be a deterrent. 

"If they're at a party or something like that and somebody offers them something, we really hope they will say 'What if this is the week I get drawn in the random testing and we've got the big game on Friday or state marching band on Saturday? I don't want to miss out on that because I made one poor decision.'"

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The Senate Tuesday confirmed Betsy DeVos as President Trump’s education secretary, 51-50. The vice president had to cast an unprecedented tie-breaking vote, after hearings that became fodder for Saturday Night Live; after angry constituents swamped Senate offices with 1.5 million calls a day; after two Republican senators defected; and Democrats held the floor overnight in protest.

The 59-year-old philanthropist and activist from Michigan takes over the leadership and management of a federal bureaucracy with 4,400 employees and a $68 billion annual budget.

Now, the question is: How much will actually change for the nation’s 50 million public school students and 20 million college students?

Adam Hatcher

It’s business as usual at Warren County’s International High School despite the news of President Trump’s travel ban.

Trump issued an executive order last week temporarily banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. Gateway to Educational Opportunities, or GEO, is an International school that is home to students from 25 different countries. More than half of those students are refugees.

Principal Mike Stevenson said students have been surprisingly quiet about the travel ban and they arrived at school Monday and treated it like any other day. Stevens is conscious of the effect the ban could have on international students and their relatives, but says he hasn’t felt the need to address the student body.

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When Kentucky lawmakers return to Frankfort next week, they’re expected to take up charter school legislation.

Republican leaders are confident that some form of charter school enabling legislation will pass this session. But now, the debate has shifted to whether to permit the schools across the state or just in Lexington and Louisville.

A Divided Majority?

Kentucky is one of only seven states in the nation without charter schools, and most people predict that will change this year. But earlier this week at a meeting of Greater Louisville Inc., the Louisville area’s chamber of commerce, House Speaker Jeff Hoover tapped the brakes slightly on a statewide charter school bill.

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A key Senate committee today voted to approve the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a school choice activist and billionaire Republican donor, to be Secretary of Education, despite fierce objections of Senate Democrats, teachers' unions and others. There's much speculation as to exactly how she might carry out President Trump's stated priority of increasing school choice.

A significant clue comes from the American Federation for Children, the advocacy organization DeVos chaired until she was nominated. AFC supports both publicly funded charter schools and even more so, "private school choice" — publicly sponsored programs that give families money to spend on tuition at private schools.

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Kentucky is one of seven states in the U.S. that doesn’t allow charter schools. But the General Assembly is likely to soon approve a bill that would make the organizations a reality in the Bluegrass.

Lawmakers will return next week to consider the measure. So what exactly are charter schools, and are they effective?

Supporters have pushed to open Kentucky up to charter schools for years, but opponents, most notably the state teacher’s union, successfully lobbied to keep the policy from passing enabling legislation into law.

During a legislative hearing last year, Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner gave an impassioned speech in favor of charters, calling out the Kentucky Educators Association for opposing them.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Recent high school graduates in Tennessee are already allowed to attend community college at no cost. Now Gov. Bill Haslam is looking to expand the year-old program to provide free community college educations to adults, as well.

Haslam, a Republican who's been in office since 2011, made his pitch at Monday night's State of the State address. Afterwards, he tweeted, "Let's be the Tennessee we can be."

The pitch was well-received by members of both parties, as the governor pushes toward his goal of helping Tennessee have 55 percent of its 6.6 million citizens hold a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2025.

Flickr/Creative Commons/U.S. Department of Education

The birthday cutoff for kindergarten in Kentucky is moving up two months. 

Children must be five years old on or before August 1 of this year in order to enter kindergarten for the 2017-18 school year.  The previous cutoff was October 1. 

Bowling Green Schools Superintendent Gary Fields says the change won’t affect that many students.

"I think this is an acknowledgement that many parents were not opting to start their children in kindergarten if their sons or daughters were born in August and September," Fields told WKU Public Radio.  "As an example, in the Bowling Green schools, we currently have 312 kindergarteners, and this law would have impacted ten of those students."

The General Assembly changed state law to implement the earlier cutoff based on the premise that younger students may not be ready for kindergarten and may not get off to a successful start.

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Hal Heiner, secretary of the state’s Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, said a new free college tuition program would help people who have exited the labor force get back to work.

Gov. Matt Bevin created the program by executive order last week after vetoing a similar measure during this year’s legislative session.

The scholarship would be the “last dollar in” for students seeking two-year degrees at schools in Kentucky, paying for the rest of tuition and fee expenses not covered by federal financial aid.

Daymar to Refund $1.2 Million to Former Kentucky Students

Dec 15, 2016
Daymar Colleges Group

Kentucky's attorney general says thousands of former Daymar College students will begin receiving restitution checks totaling $1.2 million.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said Wednesday the payments will go to nearly 3,500 former students of Daymar's Kentucky campuses and online programs. The payments are being issued by the claims administrator appointed to handle the case.

Adam Hatcher

Students at Kentucky’s first international high school are preparing to finish their first semester. Gateway to Educational Opportunities International is located on Warren Central High School’s campus in Bowling Green.

About 65 percent of the school’s 180 students are refugees. Assistant Principal Adam Hatcher said some students know four or five languages, with most able to speak at least rudimentary English.

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The Kentucky Board of Education has approved a list of principles to guide state policymakers if the legislature passes a bill clearing the way for charter schools in the state. Kentucky is one of seven states that don’t allow charters — schools that use public dollars but are operated by organizations besides the state like nonprofits, for-profit companies, or groups of parents.

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The Kentucky Board of Education is holding a special meeting Monday morning to study charter schools.

Such schools are similar to public schools in that they use public dollars and are funded based on student enrollment. They’re also controversial because they can be operated by nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies or groups of parents and teachers.

Kentucky is among a handful of states that don’t have charter schools.

But with Republicans now in full control of the state legislature that could change.

Legislation favoring charter schools has faltered in the state House, which was long-controlled by Democrats.

WKU

Kentucky’s public and private colleges and universities awarded a record number of degrees during the 2015-16 academic year.

A report from the Council on Postsecondary Education says Kentucky’s higher education institutions conferred 65,829 degrees--a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year.

The number represents a 32.5 percent increase over the amount of degrees awarded over ten years in the commonwealth.

Murray State and Morehead State had the highest increase in bachelor degree production, with the schools awarding 12 percent more degrees in the 2015-16 academic year. The University of Kentucky conferred 4 percent more.

Western Kentucky University saw a four percent increase in that same time.

Over the past decade, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System saw a 49 percent increase in the number of associate degrees it awarded.

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A court has ordered the release of $18 million back to Kentucky’s state colleges and universities after the state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin’s mid-year cuts to higher education were illegal.

The $18 million, which will be released by Thursday, has been held in an escrow account since Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged Bevin’s executive order cutting higher education funding by 2 percent.

Though the state Supreme Court ruled last month that Bevin didn’t have the authority to cut funding that had already been budgeted by the legislature, the $18 million was in limbo while the court waited to see if Bevin would request for a the case to be heard again.

Bevin announced he would not seek another hearing of the case last week, and on Friday, the governor and attorney general agreed to release the funds back to state colleges and universities.

Bevin ordered the 2 percent mid-year cuts after negotiations for the two-year budget this spring to free up money for the state’s ailing pension systems. Higher education was cut by 4.5 percent in the two-year budget and most other state agencies and programs were cut by 9 percent.

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