Education

A proposal to raise Kentucky’s dropout age to 18 years old has passed a major hurdle. The state Senate has approved a bill that allows individual school districts to decide whether to raise the dropout age and requires participating schools to have alternative education programs.

The bill passed overwhelming, 35-2 Wednesday, with two Democratic senators voting against because of the local option. Republican Senator Julie Denton also didn’t like the local option, but she voted in favor of the measure.

Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee have been granted a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind education standards. NCLB has been criticized for setting unreachable goals for education. Kentucky was one of 11 states that applied for the waiver last fall and promised to make other commitments to school reform.

A bill allowing charter schools in Kentucky will get a hearing in the House Education Committee. Chairman Carl Rollins has set Tuesday as the hearing date, but that could change if the deadline for candidates to file to run for General Assembly seats is pushed back again. Rollins still doesn’t support charter schools, but thinks it's time for the bill to be discussed.

Governor Steve Beshear is warming to a modified proposal to raise the high school dropout age. Beshear has long pushed to raise the dropout age to 18. The Senate Education Committee passed a bill today that lets individual school boards opt in to a higher dropout age. It also requires those boards to provide the Kentucky Department of Education with proof that a solid alternative program exists in their districts.

Kentucky’s two largest universities are facing grim futures with more budget cuts planned for the coming years. But the schools' presidents say they can survive.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and University of Louisville President James Ramsey addressed the Senate Education Committee today.

They did not attempt to talk their way out of proposed 6.4 percent budget cuts. Instead, both men talked highly of their current programs and their ability to survive past budget cuts.

Lawmakers from both parties appear eager to make changes to Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system.

The system puts a heavy emphasis on student test scores. The new system was put in place as state leaders secured millions of dollars in funding from the federal “Race to the Top” program. The Tennessean newspaper reports nearly 20 bills have been filed by lawmakers to alter the evaluation system, despite calls from Governor Bill Haslam to leave it alone for now.

The Indiana House will now consider a bill that would allow creationism to be taught in public school classrooms. The bill—already passed by the state Senate--would allow schools to teach religion-based views on the origin of the universe in science classes, along with teachings on evolution.

Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education is confident the commonwealth will receive a waiver from No Child Left Behind standards. Terry Holliday has been in direct talks with federal officials, and he says a big announcement confirming the waiver is coming next week.

The head of Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education foresees a dire future for higher education if the state can’t correct its budget woes soon. CPE President Robert King told a budget subcommittee today that Governor Steve Beshear’s 6.4 percent budget cut on higher education will definitely mean higher tuition for college students. But another increase won’t be enough to fill the hole created by four years of budget cuts.

An Indiana Senate panel has approved a bill that would allow creationism to be taught in the Hoosier State’s public schools. The Senate Education Committee voted 8-to-2 to send the legislation to the full Indiana Senate despite pleas from scientists and some religious leaders to keep religion out of public school science classrooms.

Advocates for charter schools in Kentucky took their cause to Frankfort today.

A handful of organizations support charter schools. One of the most vocal has been the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities or BAEO. Its national president, Kenneth Campbell, helped lead the rally for charter schools at the Capitol. And he told the crowd Kentucky’s education system doesn’t serve all students equally.

Officials at Western Kentucky University are facing a budget cut of about five million dollars in Governor Beshear's new budget. However, WKU President Gary Ransdell says a hiring freeze won't be used to help meet the cost reduction.  

Bowling Green, Ky – WKU President Gary Ransdell recently hosted a group of state lawmakers from the Warren County region at his home. In addition to having a nice breakfast, those lawmakers got an earful from the President about the future of higher education funding in Kentucky. President Ransdell says WKU students can expect another 5% tuition increase next fall, and he says Kentucky's university leaders are banding together to present lawmakers with a proposed higher education funding model.

Bowling Green, Ky – For many Kentucky college students, choosing a foreign language class usually involves the usual suspects of Spanish, French, and possibly German. But WKU's Arabic language instructor, Khaldoun Almousily, says learning his native language will greatly enhance a student's job prospects after graduation. We spoke to Khaldoun and two of his students, Louisville junior Alli Wright and Kent Johnson, a junior from Colombia, TN.

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