The Kentucky Board of Education on Wednesday rescued a small southern school district from the brink of closure, voting to allow emergency funds to be used to pay the bills in what members called an unprecedented move by the state.
Under the agreement, the state Department of Education will likely lend the Monticello Independent school district at least $1 million to keep its three schools open until the end of the school year. The interest-free loan will come out of the state's rainy day fund and will have to be repaid within five years, said associate commissioner Hiren Desai.
Desai said without the help, the district would not have been able to make payroll Feb. 28.
"Quite frankly, time is of the essence," Desai told members at a special meeting in Frankfort.
Kentucky high school graduates with special needs may now request an alternative high school diploma from their local board of education.
State Senator Dennis Parrett of Elizabethtown sponsored legislation last year to give students who finished a modified curriculum an alternative diploma. Until then, they were given only a certificate of attainment.
Under a change that took effect in January, special needs students who graduated before the law took affect, may now retroactively request an alternative high school diploma.
A bill to create an authorizing body for charter schools in Tennessee has been delayed. The sponsor now says he’s listening to critics, who say the legislation unfairly singles out Nashville and Memphis.
As written, the bill would give charter schools a way to open in Tennessee’s two largest urban areas without asking the school board – officially known as the local education authority or LEA.
Rep. Mark White is the sponsor and says he could be on-board with a true statewide charter authorizer if local school boards do the initial vetting.
“If we go back to the LEAs – letting them have first input on this – this will be a statewide application,” said Rep. White.
The State Board of Education will meet in special session Wednesday to consider taking over management of a southeast Kentucky school system. The Monticello Independent school district has waived its right to appeal a state takeover. The problems plaguing Monticello schools are not academic.
A financial analysis by the Kentucky Department of Education finds enrollment is declining while expenditures remain too high for the size of the district.
A revenue forecast dated January 7 of this year estimates the general fund for Monticello will end the current school year with a negative balance of more than a million dollars. Additionally, the state last month had to advance over $700,000 to Monticello to continue operating and make payroll.
Starting this fall, WKU’s Elizabethtown campus will offer a Masters of Business Administration. Students will be able to choose from three tracks: the full-time, online, or professional MBA.
The Professional MBA was created to meet the scheduling needs of busy adults by meeting on alternate Saturdays for two years. The program is open to professionals, business owners, and managers with five years of experience.
WKU’s PMBA program recently placed in the top 5 percent nationally on the standardized exit exam for graduates of MBA programs.
“This top ranking proves that we have an excellent faculty, an applied curriculum, and a cohort program that works,” said Bob Hatfield, associate dean of WKU's Gordon Ford College of Business.
Students wouldn't be allowed to drop out of school before their 18th birthday under legislation that's passed the Kentucky House. The House also passed a bill sponsored by Bowling Green Democrat Jody Richards that would allow foreign born students to stay in school until they're 23.
Governor Beshear has been promoting the drop out legislation for years, most recently in his annual State of the Commonwealth speech last month. The proposal would increase the dropout age incrementally from 16 to 17 to 18 over a period of six years, giving both students and school districts time to adjust to the change.
The Democratic-controlled House has approved the measure in past years, but it has never been passed by the Republican majority in the Senate. Critics fear, among other things, that classrooms would be disrupted by students who don't want to be there.
A bill authorizing more than $360 million in bonds for university projects is just steps away from becoming a reality.
House Bill 7 allows six of the state's eight public universities to use bonds and other means to fund projects like building renovations, construction and renovations to Commonwealth Stadium. And it passed the Senate budget committee unanimously Thursday.
The measure includes approval of $22 million in bonds for a new international center and Honors College at WKU.
The bill won't use any general fund dollars. University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said the universities hope to start construction on the projects immediately.
"We think that every one of these projects lead to better outcomes in terms of our student's success, we want construction to begin within the year," he said.
A few Tennessee lawmakers are voicing concerns with a bill that aims to end any preference shown to minority groups on public college campuses. The legislation was delayed after a long committee hearing at the state capitol.
The proposal comes from out of state. A former university Regent in California who is an African American has helped pass similarly worded constitutional amendments in a few western states.
Ward Connerly says he’s attempting to re-level the playing field after years of informal affirmative action.
“We have evolved this theory that as long as we’re discriminating for good things, that that’s alright," said Connerly.
Students at Volunteer State Community College will be able to easily transfer to WKU under the new agreement. Leaders from both schools are scheduled to sign off on the deal later today at the community college campus in Gallatin.
Students who earn a two-year degree at Volunteer State can enroll at WKU to pursue a bachelor's degree and are advised by counselors at both schools to create an easy transition. The program ensures that students' credits will transfer to WKU and can save students time and money.
Kentucky's education commissioner says the state will step in and take over management of struggling Jefferson County schools as soon as August if progress isn't made soon.
The warning from Terry Holliday came Tuesday in a meeting with the Courier-Journal editorial board. A state analysis last week showed that 16 of the 18 low-performing schools in Jefferson County have made little or no progress since they were ordered to undergo overhauls.
Holliday last week called the situation "academic genocide." He told the newspaper he chose those words specifically as a way to get the community to realize and act on the seriousness of the situation.
In the past three years, 41 public schools in Kentucky have been selected for overhauls because of chronically poor academics.