WKU President Gary Ransdell is expecting a list of recommendations from the school’s divisional leaders over how to reallocate $7.7 million.

The moves are needed for the school to pay its fixed costs and balance its budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. In an email to faculty and staff Monday, Ransdell said declining state funding for higher education and a drop in enrollment have forced the school to act.

Ransdell said WKU was facing increased expenditures of $9.6 million related employee benefits, contractual obligations, and maintenance for new and expanded facilities. While a 3 percent tuition increase will create $4.3 million for the school, the actual benefit is only $1.9 million when enrollment decreases are factored in.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio Tuesday, President Ransdell says the school’s vice-presidents have been given the ability to decide how to best handle the changes.

“I would say within the next month, all of those decisions will have been made about how each division will address its required reallocation.

An effort underway in Southern Indiana seeks to produce 10,000 college or technical degrees by 2020. 

The region has more than 40,000 adult workers with unfinished degrees. 

Bridgett Strickler heads a new initiative called Education Matters Southern Indiana.

"We know that working adults need an efficient path to a degree or certification because they're balancing work, life, and family obligations, Strickler tells WKU Public Radio.  "What we hope to do is bust the barriers for those adults by connecting them with opportunities for financial aid, scholarships, and programs they may not know about."

Research shows that only 25% of residents living in Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Scott, and Washington counties has an associate’s, bachelor’s, or professional degree compared to 38% nationally. 

Strickler says by increasing the number of degree-holders, southern Indiana will have a better workforce and economy.

The Henderson County public school system is preparing to lay off teachers for next year. 

The exact number of positions affected is unknown, though cuts are planned at every school.

Public Information Officer Julie Wisher says the school system is over-staffed.

"What we've done is realign ourselves with the staffing formulas that are set out by the Kentucky Department of Education," adds Wisher.  "In the past we had gone over those formulas."

Wisher says the school district has also absorbed the cost of programs previously funded by grants. 

In order to balance next year’s budget, Henderson County schools must reduce expenses by $6.7 million. 

Official layoff notices will be going out at the end of next week.  The cuts are expected to affect only non-tenured staff.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education will meet in special session Thursday morning to discuss the budget and cost savings.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says if he’s elected governor he’d essentially offer Kentucky students a $20,000 degree to University of Kentucky and University of Louisville if they can graduate in four years and then stay in the state.

Comer, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, on Thursday unveiled the education plank of his campaign.

Under his plan, students would be able to have the full amount of their tuition reimbursed through credits on their Kentucky tax returns if they stay in-state to work.

It currently costs over $44,000 to go to UK for four years and over $41,000 at U of L.

He said he’ll also push for an outcomes-based funding model that rewards Kentucky colleges for producing employable students.

He also wants to give employers who hire graduates of the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges a $2,000 tax credit per student.

To fund that initiative, he’d cut KCTCS administrative staffing budget by 10 percent to save $13 million a year, he said.

At a governor’s debate in Versailles on Wednesday, Comer said that putting more money in the K-12 education system isn’t going to ensure Kentuckians have a better education because of government inefficiency.

“The education dollars in Kentucky especially with respect to K-12 isn’t making it to the front lines, it’s getting eaten up by bureaucracy and administrative costs,” Comer said.

Last year the General Assembly passed a budget that increased K-12 funding by $189 million over two years.

Last year, critics argued that Kentucky students could not meet college and career readiness standards because of a lack of funding.

Four finalists have been named in the search for a new superintendent for the Bowling Green school system. 

Allen Barber is the only finalist from out of state.   He’s currently Director of Human Resources and Secondary Education for a school system in Eagle Point, Oregon. 

Other finalists include Bowling Green High School Principal Gary Fields, Hart County Assistant Superintendent Wesley Waddle, and Mark Owens, Director of Personnel for Daviess County Public Schools. 

"All four candidates have been successful in leadership positions, come highly recommended, and the screening committee using the criteria established by the board of education determined these four were the best fit for the position," says Phil Eason, a consultant with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.

The four finalists were narrowed down from an applicant pool of 16. 

The public is invited to meet the finalists at forum on April 28 at Bowling Green Junior High School at 6:00 p.m. 

The Board of Education plans to hire the next superintendent by mid-May.  Current Superintendent Joe Tinius is retiring June 30.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Vex Robotics

The Hardin County School System is preparing to host a group of international robotics teams ahead of a major competition next week in Louisville.

The VEX Robotics World Championships are being held Wednesday through Saturday at the Kentucky Expo Center and Freedom Hall. The competition features teams from elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges from all across the world.

Some Central Hardin High School robotics team members will get some special practice before they head to Louisville for the championships.

Jason Neagle, with the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center, says fifteen teams from China and Singapore will spend Monday and Tuesday in Elizabethtown, where they will practice their robotics and engineering programs.

“Our students are going to get the opportunity to work alongside with them. The Chinese teams are some of the top-ranked teams in the world, and we have some Top-30 ranked teams as well.”

Some Kentucky students working under the umbrella of the recently adopted common core standards are showing signs of faster progression and heightened college and career readiness levels than students in older curriculum models, according to a recent study by the American Institutes for Research.

Zeyu Xu, principal researcher on the study, said the findings should not serve as an “assessment of common core itself.”

A familiar face is returning to the helm of the University of Pikeville.

Former Kentucky Governor Paul Patton will serve as interim leader of the school following the departure of its current president. A news release issued from UPike Monday says  James Hurley is stepping aside for “personal reasons.”

Patton is chancellor at UPike and served as president from 2010 to 2013.

The school’s board of trustees will initiate a national search for the school’s next leader. In announcing the moves, UPike credited Hurley for the school’s record enrollment growth, as well as its recent additions of new colleges of businesses and education, and global education partnerships.

Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro is the recipient of a $4 million estate gift from a graduate of the school.

Luellen Pyles passed away in late December at her home in Maysville. The 1944 Kentucky Wesleyan alumna taught English and Spanish in Kentucky and Ohio high schools before joining Burke Marketing Research in Cincinnati, where she became an executive vice-president.

Kentucky Wesleyan President Bart Darrell says Pyles led a life filled with great accomplishments.

“She was a pioneer for women in business on the ground floor of Burke, which is closely associated with Proctor & Gamble. She was a global businesswoman, and has done so many incredible things in her lifetime.”

During her time at Burke, Pyles helped open offices in Argentina, Brazil, France, Italy and Mexico.

Wesleyan plans to use the estate gift to support teacher education scholarships and alumni programming efforts.

Darrell says he spoke at Pyles funeral, something he called a “true honor.”

“One of her last requests was that she be buried in her Kentucky Wesleyan gown, and her 50-year alumni medallion. So, she embodied everything that we want in a Kentucky Wesleyan alum,” Darrell said.

Kentucky Department of Education

Kentucky’s education commissioner is leaving the post at the end of summer.

Terry Holliday announced his retirement Wednesday during the state Board of Education meeting in Frankfort.  Looking back on his five-year tenure, Holliday said he’s proud of the results.

"We're seeing a much higher graduation rate and a higher percentage of graduates who are ready for college level work, either four-year degrees or technical degrees," Holliday told WKU Public Radio.

He cited lower dropout rates and higher test scores among his other achievements. 

Despite major strides, Holliday said the state of education in Kentucky is still a work in progress.

"We've moved from the bottom of the states to above the national average in most regards," added Holliday.  "I think Kentucky education is in great shape right now, but it still has a lot of work to do."

Under Holliday’s leadership, Kentucky implemented the controversial Common Core education standards, which are currently under review for possible modification. 

Holliday’s retirement is effective August 31. 

In 2012, the state Board of Education approved a four-year extension to his initial contract.  The contract was to run through August 2017 at a salary of $225, 000 per year.