Education

Legislation that would give parents the option to move a child from a failing public school to a private school is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor Thursday.

The proposal is sponsored by Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga.

It's similar to a measure Republican Gov. Bill Haslam proposed last year that failed. The governor also failed to pass voucher legislation in the previous session.

Under Gardenhire's proposal, eligibility would be opened to low-income students in districts that have a school in the bottom 5 percent.

Haslam's proposal was approved in the Senate last year, but the House version was unsuccessful because it sought to expand eligibility to the bottom 10 percent of schools.

Opponents of vouchers say the money should stay with public schools and improve them.

WKU

WKU is expanding its international reach to the Arctic. 

In simultaneous ceremonies Monday, WKU and the University of Akurreyri in Iceland signed an academic and research agreement which creates the North Atlantic Climate Change Collaboration. 

WKU President Dr. Gary Ransdell spoke at a live news conference from Iceland.

"We want at WKU our faculty and students to be here, to learn and observe, to touch and feel firsthand, and experience the effects of climate change, and they will be part of the solution," said Ransdell.

The collaboration grew out of a climate change study abroad course last summer in Iceland.  Another group of WKU faculty and students will return to Iceland in June.

A virtual college fair with take place this week for students interested in transferring their credits or associate degrees to WKU. 

Transfer Madness will allow students to chat online with advisers and download information.

Chris Jensen, associate director of the Academic Advising and Retention Center at WKU, says the event is aimed at making the transfer process less intimidating.

"We will have representatives from advising, our distance learning programs, our financial aid office, as well as admissions online answering questions for students make it an easier process to be able to come to WKU to continue their degree."

The virtual fair will be held from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 26.  Registration can be completed online at www.transfermadness.org

WKU is waiving application fees for students who participate.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Shirley Li/Medill

The man who chaired the Federal Reserve during the most tumultuous time in recent memory is speaking Monday in Evansville.

Ben Bernanke, who served eight years as Fed chairman before retiring in January of 2014, will give a speech and answer questions at the University of Southern Indiana, as part of the Romaine College of Business Innovative Speaker Series.

The college’s dean, Muhammad Khayum, says he’s interesting is learning how the former Fed Chair handled the pressure of knowing that anything he said about the economy could have major ramifications.

“I’m just curious as to how they internally respond to that level of attention and the kind of sway they have over individuals in our society,” Khayum said.

Some of the questions that will be put forth to Bernanke will come from USI students.

“There’s a question, for example, that the students put forward about the issue of student debt, and whether that’s the next bubble in the economy due to the magnitude of that student debt.”

Bernanke’s talk will begin Monday at 6 pm at the University of Southern Indiana Physical Activities Center.

It’s free and open to the public, and overflow seating and a live feed of the event will be provided if regular seating at the facility runs out.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Aaron Vowels

A week after announcing the receipt of $6.3 million from the foundations of businessmen “Papa” John Schnatter and Charles Koch, the University of Louisville has released the underlying seven-year agreements.

The two documents affirm that the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise will be created by Dec. 1. It also states that the money will be spent on two tenure-track professorships, two visiting professors, center staff and expenses, up to five research grants, up to four doctoral fellowships, and classes, seminars and annual lectures.

Abbey Oldham / WKU Public Radio

An all-day speaker series in Bowling Green this week is dedicated to encouraging participants to make their innovative ideas a reality.

IdeaFestival Bowling Green is being held this Friday at the Downing Student Union Auditorium on WKU’s campus.  The school’s Innovate Kentucky Executive Administrator, Josh Raymer, says some of the topics discussed at this year’s event will include cancer research, branding and imaging, and making online content more social.

“And what we love is that these speakers all come from Kentucky, or neighboring states. So it truly is an example for everyone that these big ideas that you see in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago—they’re also happening right here in Kentucky.”

Another topic that will be addressed by several speakers is the future of the automotive industry.

“A lot of Corvette tie-ins, which is appropriate, given that it’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green,” said Raymer. “But once again, that’s about how important it is to stay on the cutting edge of innovation, especially in a hyper-competitive field like the automotive industry.”

The Bowling Green event is an off-shoot of the IdeaFestival held in Louisville each fall since 2000.

More information about this year’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green can be found here.

The University of Kentucky's board of trustees has approved a 3 percent increase for in-state students this fall.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is expected to vote on the proposal next month. The in-state undergraduate increase would bring first-year tuition to $10,780.

Tuition for non-resident students would increase 6 percent.

UK said in a news release that housing rates will increase by 3 percent. Dining rates will increase for most plans from 2.4 percent to 3.6 percent.

The council last year approved allowing Kentucky universities to increase tuition by up to 8 percent over two years. UK approved a 5 percent increase last year.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is freezing tuition at current rates for the 2015-16 academic year. 

The Board of Regents previously approved a $3 per credit hour increase for next year. The board’s decision will keep rates at $147 per credit hour for in-state students, $294 per credit hour for out-of-state students from contiguous counties, and $515 per credit hour for all other out-of-state students.

President Jay Box says the tuition relief comes despite KCTCS receiving less state funding.

"We've had ongoing increases especially since 2008 when the General Assembly decided to start reducing our state appropriations," Box told WKU Public Radio.  "Since 2008, we've lost $38 million or 17% of state appropriations coming our way."

KCTCS has seen enrollment an enrollment decrease since 2011, which Dr. Box attributes to more people going back to work following the recession.

Dr. Box says the 16 KCTCS campuses in Kentucky remain committed to being the most affordable option for higher education in the state.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s $3.3 billion bonding bailout of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System won’t pass this session, but a smaller study-and-finance package may still be in the works.

The retirement system only has 53 percent of the money it needs to make future payouts to more than 140,000 retired and active teachers in the state. The state’s required contributions to the system will double by 2026, according to KTRS officials.

On Tuesday, the Senate rejected $3.3 billion in bonding for the retirement system proposed by the House, replacing it with language that would require a committee of lawmakers and experts to identify problems in the pension system and come up with a report on possible solutions by December.

Now a conference committee comprised of representatives and senators will try to come up with a compromise to the two proposals.

Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg said the legislature was in a similar situation in 2013 when lawmakers addressed the cousin of the teacher retirement system—the Kentucky Retirement Systems.

“The Senate kind of wanted reforms but it didn’t want to address the pending issue of financial stability and money,” Stumbo said. “We want to make sure that the fund is financially sound, and we’re willing to listen to some of their suggestions on reforms if they’re willing to do something on the financial stability side.”

In that 2013 session, the legislature required the state to make recommended contributions to the KRS, created a separate pension fund for new hires and limited their benefits. The reforms have been considered successful by some, however KRS still only has 21 percent of the money it needs to make future payouts.

Stumbo said bonding should be included in a solution this year because interest rates are favorable. KTRS officials said the state can borrow money at a 4 percent interest rate and a 7 percent return from its investments in the system.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, hasn’t said if he would consider bonding in a final bill. But he said he’s willing to compromise.

WKU Sigma Alpha Epsilon Advisor Randy Shockey says the actions of just a few members have caused harm to the entire organization nationally.

The SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma was closed and some members left school after a video went viral showing them singing a racist song saying no African-American would ever become a fraternity member.

Shockey said that's not his fraternity is all about, "It's a wonderful organization and it's disappointing something like this has given us a black eye," Shockey said, "I don't think this is indicative of the fraternity as a whole." He added, "That's not what we stand for and not what we try to instill in our young men."

Shockey said there are currently no African-American members of WKU's fraternity but there have been in the past and they're welcome again in the future. Because of spring break, Shockey hasn't had a chance to talk to the chapter members about the incident yet but says he will this Sunday at their regular weekly meeting.

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