Kentucky’s education leaders are getting behind the latest push for casino gambling. Legislation has already been filed for the 2014 General Assembly.
The Kentucky School Boards Association recently voiced its support for letting voters decide whether to allow expanded gaming. KSBA Spokesman Brad Hughes says education has lost tens of millions of dollars since 2008.
"We have textbooks that have zero funding right now, preschool has been cut dramatically, teacher training has been cut dramatically, so the revenues are needed," insisted Hughes.
The School Boards Association also believes that until casino gambling is given an up or down vote, the state won’t seek out other means of new revenue. Hughes is quite certain tax reform won’t come in 2014.
"Everybody agrees there's the probability of increasing state revenue by modernizing the tax code, but it is an election year, and what we're hearing isn't very positive," he added.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday will ask lawmakers next year for 300 million dollars more than what’s in the current budget.
A published report says many school districts across the state are giving modest increases to superintendents, but some have boosted pay by double digits.
An analysis by The Courier-Journal found that about 30 of the state's 173 school districts increased superintendents' pay by at least 15 percent from 2009-2013. The average pay raise in that time span was 3.7 percent. The review found that 49 districts reduced pay for superintendents.
The larger pay increases were defended by advocates for administrators, who said the competition for good leaders is intense.
Critics say the pay hikes are hard to justify at a time when state funding for education has decreased, prompting cuts in other areas.
A group of education organizations will meet in Lexington Thursday to prepare for their campaign to better fund public education in Kentucky.
Stu Silberman, the executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, says it's the first time the various groups that make up the Kentucky Education Action Team will rally around a single message
“Each group will a lot of times go in with their individual legislative agendas and they don’t always match up. So the legislators sometimes feel like, well you all don’t even know what you want.”
The Prichard Committee is one of several education groups that will participate in the fall summit, where members will discuss the funding requests being made. Silberman says representatives will take the information back to their regions and develop an action plan to reach community members and lawmakers.
The group will be asking for over $250 million dollars over the next two-year budget to restore funding levels to the 2008 school year.
After 16 years at the helm, Dr. Michael McCall says he will retire in January 2015 as president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
“I have been privileged to work with a dedicated Board, outstanding cabinet, committed college presidents along with extraordinary faculty and staff,” McCall said. “Together we have built a comprehensive two-year college system that is the envy of the nation. I am extremely proud of the work we have accomplished to enhance the educational attainment in the state.
The Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997 created KCTCS by joining the 14 community colleges of the University of Kentucky with the 15 technical schools in the Kentucky Workforce Development Cabinet.
McCall’s first challenge was to consolidate the 29 separate schools into 16 comprehensive community and technical colleges.
“Dr. McCall’s achievements as president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System are only outweighed by his commitment to improving the quality and access to education for all Kentuckians—despite their age, economic status or geographic location,” said Governor Beshear.
Under his leadership, KCTCS has become the place where higher education begins for many Kentuckians. A press release from the system says nearly half of the state’s postsecondary education students are enrolled in a KCTCS school.
Dr. McCall will stay on as president of KCTCS until a successor is found.
The president of WKU is on the list of speakers at a forum on rising student debt being held by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
WKU President Gary Ransdell is in Missouri Monday for the event titled “Generation Debt: The Promise, Perils, and Future of Student Loans”.
According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average student debt per follower grew from $16,000 in 2005, to $25,000 in 2012. The College Board found that an estimated 66 percent of seniors graduating in 2011 had student loan debt.
Economic and education analysts are increasingly worried that the growing debts faced by college graduates will impair the upward mobility of young Americans.
Monday’s forum on student debt is being webcast live from St. Louis, beginning at 12:30 pm central. You can see that webcast here.
Encouraging numbers from the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics show nearly three out of five high school graduates in 2011 enrolled in college. Education Secretary Thomas Zawacki released the numbers on Tuesday.
More than 27,000 of the state's public high school grads in 2011 continued their educations. Officials point to the report as evidence of the importance of coursework that prepares all high school graduates for college.
The University of Kentucky was the top destination for the state's 2011 graduates. The report showed that 2,376 of them enrolled there. Western Kentucky University was second with 2,340 of the 2011 graduates signing up.
Brown School in Jefferson County had the highest college-going rate at 94.9 percent. Paintsville High School was second at 93.6 percent.
Some 15,000 Kentuckians have an important deadline approaching. December 18th will be the last day to take the current version of the GED test. People who have passed part, but not all of the high school equivalency exam must complete all portions of it before a new test is rolled out in January and their previous scores are wiped out.
Reecie Stagnolia is Vice President of Adult Education at the Council on Postsecondary Education. He says this will be the last chance to take the test using pencil and paper.
“As we look at the age demographics of the population who take the test, we think most individuals use technology in some form or fashion in their daily lives, and those skills will be adaptable to where they will be prepared to take the test using a computer," remarks Stagnolia.
This will be the first upgrade to the GED test since 2002. The new version will allow test-takers to get their scores the same day, but the cost will double from $60 to $120.
Kentucky’s minority and low-income college students continue to graduate at lower rates than their peers.
In its upcoming annual accountability report, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is expected to show that while college graduation rates increased between 2011 and 2012, a significant gap in those rates persisted for underrepresented minority and low-income students.
Other highlights of the report include an uptick in college readiness, a decline in GED attainment and “lost ground” in the areas of college funding and affordability.
The council will release a finalized version of the report “in the near future.”
A group representing nearly all of Kentucky's school districts is planning a study that could show lawmakers that school funding needs to be restored.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the Council for Better Education is raising money for the $130,000 study, which could begin Dec. 1.
Council president Tom Shelton says the study would design an equitable and adequate funding system to allow all students to become college- and career-ready.
The SEEK program, the primary source of money for school districts, has remained flat while schools have seen increases in the number of students and average daily attendance figures. That caused the amount of funding per student to slip from $3,866 in 2009 to $3,827 this year.
Flexible focus funds -- which include textbooks, preschool and staff development -- also have dropped.