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.
The number one public high school in the U.S. will soon have a new leader.
WKU is close to hiring a director of the Gatton Academy for Math and Science to replace Dr. Tim Gott, who is retiring.
Newsweek magazine has rated Gatton the number one public high school in the U.S. for two years in a row.
"We've had a wonderful first seven years and now we're ready to continue what we've been doing and ratchet up opportunities for young people," says Dr. Julia Roberts, executive director of the Center for Gifted Studies at Gatton.
Roberts says the new director will arrive at an exciting time as the academy grows from 120 to 200 students. Construction will start next year on an expansion of Schneider Hall, which houses the residential program for Kentucky high school juniors and seniors.
Of Kentucky’s 120 counties, at least one student from 113 of those counties has attended Gatton since it opened.
The search for a new director is down to three finalists: Christopher Kolar from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, IL, Dr. Lynette Breedlove from the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston, TX, and Corey Alderdice of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science, and the Arts in Hot Springs, AR.
An hiring announcement is expected in the next two weeks.
Tuition increases could be in store for many college students in Tennessee.
The Tennessean reports that some public universities could see increases of between 4 and 8 percent to offset reduced state funding. Community college students could see an increase of between 2.6 and 10.6 percent.
Officials at a Tennessee Board of Regents Finance Committee meeting on Thursday reviewed estimated increases at each school.
The University of Memphis submitted a plan to avoid an increase. Projected increases at other schools varied.
Officials say the numbers are preliminary. Formal tuition proposals will be ready on May 27.
Members of a Hardin County music group got a big surprise Wednesday.
The North Hardin High School Marching Band has been selected to perform in next year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Macy’s Parade officials worked secretly with school personnel to surprise band members with the news Wednesday afternoon at the school in Radcliff.
Band members were called to the gym for the surprise announcement that they were selected out of hundreds of applicants to be one of ten marching bands to participate in the 2015 parade.
Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School marching band is performing in this year’s Macy’s Parade.
There's plenty of anxiety in the U.S. over getting into a top college. But a new Gallup poll suggests that, later in life, it doesn't matter nearly as much as we think. In fact, when you ask college graduates whether they're "engaged" with their work or "thriving" in all aspects of their lives, their responses don't vary one bit whether they went to a prestigious college or not.
A financial gift from a corporation will allow a Hardin County high school to offer a curriculum designed to help students excel in the STEM fields.
Dow Corning Corporation announced Monday that it’s donating $25,000 to implement the Project Lead The Way program at John Hardin High School. Project Lead the Way is a non-profit effort that designs programs related to science, technology, engineering, and math that are used in over 5,000 schools in the country.
Hardin County Schools spokesman John Wright says Project Lead the Way will open doors for students who excel in the program.
“North Hardin, John Hardin, and Central Hardin engineering students will now get the prerequisites that they need at their home high schools that will allow them to go to our new Hardin County Schools’ Early College and Career Center that opens in August.”
Kentucky high school students worried about the math portion of a statewide assessment test have another reason to be stressed.
The Kentucky Department of Education this week announced it will no longer allow students to use calculators that have the algebra software package Zoom Math while taking the ACT Compass test. That test is taken by high school seniors who haven’t met college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT test taken during their junior year.
Northern Kentucky University Math Professor Steve Newman helped lead the charge against Zoom Math, and says students who knew little algebra were able to use the software to get passing grades on the test.
“And that doesn’t mean they know anything about mathematics, know how to solve equations, or do all the kinds of things that colleges require them to know.” Newman told WKU Public Radio.
Newman says he helped lead several experiments at NKU that looked into the impact of Zoom Math on a test-taker’s ability to get the right answer on the ACT Compass test. The Kentucky Department of Education also conducted similar studies.
The Warren County school district and the Bowling Green school system will go before a hearing officer Thursday in hopes of resolving an ongoing dispute. The two sides are at odds over a non-resident student agreement.
Non-resident students are county students allowed to attend city schools where state funding travels with the students. The county wants to limit the number of transfers to just siblings of current students. The city wants the 750 non-resident students, as currently permitted, plus more if county student enrollment grows.
The year-long dispute has included multiple proposals from each side, though no agreement. Bowling Green Superintendent Joe Tinius says not having a contract is making it hard to plan for next school year.
"More so than our planning, it's the impact on parents of not knowing if their child, those who have applied, will be able to attend Bowling Green schools," says Tinius.
Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton is confident the two sides can reach a deal.
"Even though under current law, there is no obligation on behalf of Warren County Public Schools to enter into an agreement, our board has been steadfast from the very beginning that they wish to do so," explains Clayton.
The hearing, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, is open to the public and takes place at the Warren County Justice Center starting at 8:30 a.m.
The hearing officer is Lexington attorney Mike Wilson, who will make a recommendation to Kentucky’s education commissioner.
Kentucky's public colleges and universities can raise tuition by eight percent over the next two years.
The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education unanimously passed the two-year tuition and mandatory fee ceiling during a meeting Tuesday in Murray. The potential increase allows universities to offset dwindling state funding. The first-year increase is limited to five percent.
In an email to faculty and staff, WKU President Gary Ransdell said he will recommend to the Board of Regents a tuition increase of 4.8 percent for in-state residential students for the fall 2014 semester.
"This, along with 50 percent state support for our KERS retirement contribution increase and with reallocations among the various divisions of the University, will allow us to balance our budget for next year," wrote Ransdell.
The budget also funds a one percent cost of living adjustment for employees and more than $4 million in additional funding for student financial assistance.
CPE President Bob King says Governor Steve Beshear wanted only a four percent increase over one year instead of the unusual two year-plan. CPE chair Pam Miller says the council wanted to give universities as much flexibility as “politically possible.”
It’s estimated that state institutions will generate an additional $66 million dollars in revenues over the 2014-15 school year thanks to the tuition hike, while institutionally-funded student aid will increase $26 million dollars.
Cathy Roemer-Garrison is always looking out for innovative ways to teach. She’s an English as a Second Language instructor at Moss Middle School in Warren County.
"I came across on the Internet something about children reading to shelter animals, and that the research showed it was successful at improving reading fluency and building self-esteem, which is a perfect fit for my ELL kids," explained Roemer-Garrison.
She took the idea to Principal David Nole, who admits he was skeptical at first.
"I thought, 'How's that going to improve what we're doing?' The more I listened the more I realized she was going about the heart of the reader, and that's just developing the love to read," Nole said.
And so it began. An initiative called Paw Pals: Literacy with Love. Every Wednesday, Roemer-Garrison visits the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society with a group of ELL students, or English Language Learners. Most are from war-torn countries, but at the shelter, those memories are overcome with smiles and laughter.
On this visit, a shelter employee brings out eight-week-old long-haired Chihuahuas.
Seventh graders Graciella Ventura of El Salvador, and Soe Meh and Bway Baw both of Thailand, sit in a circle, each holding a puppy and a book. Storytime is about to begin. Ventura has a wide grin as one of the puppies licks her face.