Flickr/Creative Commons/BES Photos

Foiled in state court, a Jefferson County Public Schools teacher filed a federal court suit Monday claiming the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System illegally raised teachers’ share of pension contributions to shore up a retirement plan that is only half-funded.

Randolph “Randy” Wieck, a history teacher at DuPont Manual High School, launched the legal battle last November by filing suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court. The case was dismissed with a recommendation that it be refiled in Franklin County, he said.

Instead, Wieck filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisville. As before, Wieck is asking that the roughly 141,000 teachers and school system retirees in Kentucky be allowed to participate in the suit. He is joined in the suit by Manual English teacher Betsey Bell and retired Manual librarian and English teacher Jane Norman.

Kentucky’s active and retired teachers are apprehensive about the solvency of their state-funded retirement. As of its last audited annual financial report on June 30, 2014, KTRS was only 53.6 percent funded with $16.2 billion in assets and $30.2 billion in obligations. A bill calling for the sale of $3.3 billion in bonds, which would have raised the KTRS funding level to 66 percent, failed in the 2015 legislative session.

Kentucky lags behind national averages for ACT college-readiness benchmarks in core subjects, with the biggest deficit in math.

The best performance among Kentucky's 2015 high school graduates was in English, with 60 percent of students meeting the ACT college-readiness benchmark. The national average was 64 percent, according to data released Wednesday by the organization that administers the exam.

The report says Kentucky's lowest scores were in math and science. Thirty-two percent of Kentucky test-takers achieved the college-readiness measurement both in math and science. National averages were 42 percent in math and 38 percent in science.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, who is retiring, says the low math score should be a motivator for action. Holliday says it's time the state puts together a math task force and looks at teacher preparation.

Flickr/Creative Commons/my_southborough

Kentucky inmates earned dramatically fewer GED diplomas since the test switched in January 2014 from a paper-based test to a more rigorous version taken on a computer, according to the state Department of Corrections.

In the 2013 fiscal year — the last full year the previous test was given — Kentucky prison and jail inmates earned 1,135 GED diplomas. In the 2015 fiscal year ending in June, 126 GED diplomas were awarded to Kentucky inmates.

The 89 percent decline means that fewer inmates have been awarded “educational good time,” which reduces prison sentences by 90 days for each inmate who earns a diploma.

The department declined a request for an interview. But in an email response to questions posed by Kentucky Public Radio, the department said that it had responded to recent changes to the test “with frustration.”

Clinton Lewis-WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says the university is at a crossroads in three areas: enrollment, state funding, and employee compensation. 

While noting many of the university’s achievements, Ransdell also outlined the school’s challenges to faculty and staff in his opening convocation Friday morning. 

Faced with an enrollment decline in the last couple of years, WKU is focusing more on recruitment and retention.  Dr. Ransdell said some of the efforts are beginning to pay off.

"As of this week, our first-time incoming student numbers are up slightly," Ransdell noted.  "Our part-time undergraduate numbers have stabilized, but our part-time graduate numbers are still tracking downward.  Our biggest challenge, however, is a 23 percent drop in continuing full-time freshmen."

Dr. Ransdell also addressed the continuing challenge of less state funding. 

"The last year Kentucky increased base funding for higher education was 2006," added Ransdell.  "By the time the 2016 budget is considered next spring, we will have suffered through a lost decade of state support for higher education."

President Ransdell said he will ask the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly to restore cuts to higher education and change the way funds are allocated to a performance-based model.  He said given the school’s growth and degree productivity, WKU would fare better in the next state budget.  He added that the increased funding would help pay for faculty\staff salary increases, which Ransdell called a top priority for next year.

The fall semester at WKU begins Monday. 

Kentucky LRC

The appointment of Kentucky’s top education official would be subject to state Senate confirmation under a bill pre-filed last week in the General Assembly.

State Rep. Kenny Imes, a Murray Republican, said he’s seeking to add accountability to the state’s education department.

“I think the public should have the right to have a voice in who is running our education system in Kentucky, along with their elected representatives,” he said. “The state by constitution is charged with providing the public education, and as such I just don’t think it ought to be totally run by KEA or any specific group.”

A spokesman for the Kentucky Education Association did not return an email request for comment on Monday.

The Kentucky education commissioner is appointed by the state Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor. Under current law, the Senate confirms the governor’s appointments to the education board, according to information provided by the Legislative Research Commission.

Last weekend, the state Board of Education interviewed a dozen candidates for the education commissioner post. The person chosen will replace the retiring Terry Holliday, the state education commissioner since 2009.


WKU President Gary Ransdell informed faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon that Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Gordon Emslie is stepping down from his administrative roles and returning to teaching.

An email sent by President Ransdell said Emslie will take a sabbatical and teach in the WKU Physics and Astronomy department beginning in January.

Dr. David Lee will take over as Provost and VP of Academic Affairs Monday. Lee, currently the Dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters, will serve a two-year appointment, with a search for a successor beginning next summer.

Dr. Emslie has served five years as Provost and VP of Academic Affairs.

“I support Gordon’s decision and offer my sincere appreciation to him for his loyal and dedicated service,” said WKU President Gary A. Ransdell.  “I have appreciated his sound financial acumen, tenacious support of the faculty and his teamwork with our colleagues on the Administrative Council."

Warrick County Schools Start Year with 48 New Teachers

Aug 10, 2015

Warrick County, Indiana schools filled 48 teaching positions this year. The district about 30 miles northwest of Owensboro, Kentucky is now fully staffed for the first day of school on Aug. 12.  

Warrick County Schools Superintendent Brad Schneider said 19 of the 48 were resignations, with some teachers likely leaving because of changes in public education, such as the emphasis on high-stakes testing.

“In my opinion, that pendulum has swung way too far and those test scores now seem to be dictating everything we do," said Schnieder. "As educators we know that’s not what’s best for kids. They also need to know problem solving skills. They need to know how to work with others, resolve problems, think outside the box, be creative.” 

Schneider said one concern in Indiana is the elimination of a salary scale, which guaranteed incremental raises for teachers.

Kentucky Department of Education

The Kentucky Board of Education has chosen Kevin C. Brown as interim commissioner while its search continues for a successor to Commissioner Terry Holliday.

The board is meeting in Frankfort for its annual retreat and August meeting. The board reviewed applicants for the commissioner's post in closed session Wednesday.

Holliday is retiring Aug. 31.

The Education Department said in a news release that the board wants the search firm that's assisting with the search to seek additional information on 15 applicants, representing both in-state and out-of-state candidates.

The first round of interviews is Aug. 14 and 15 in Louisville.

Brown is an associate commissioner and department general counsel. He will serve starting Sept. 1 with a salary equivalent to $150,000 per year until a new commissioner is in place.

Rhonda J. Miler

As a new school year begins, some families in Bowling Green are getting a little extra help, through home visits sponsored by the city schools.

For one family, whose home was shattered by murder, the home visit helps kids, just be kids.

“We’ve got a homework basket so you can keep your supplies in there…”

At the home of Oberlina Cruz Velis and her seven children, Bowling Green City Schools Migrant Advocate Assistant Teresa Sneed has a basket of new school supplies. It’s for these children who had to leave everything behind in a desperate move from El Salvador three years ago.

“Our home visit today is the back-to-school information,” says Sneed. The visit is part of the school district’s Migrant Education program. Sneed has arrived with the school district’s Bilingual Recruiter Mildred Maradiaga, who serves as interpreter.

“We brought pencils, notebooks, loose leaf paper, information about our calendar for next year, and the daily hours for each school,” says Maradiaga.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Jason Howie

Researchers from WKU and Clemson University have teamed up to learn more about the role social media sites play in spreading inaccurate information during crisis situations.

WKU associate professor of communications Blair Thompson recently co-authored a study that was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. The study examined the impact social media had on disseminating information following a pair of school shootings that took place at Fern Creek High School in Louisville and Albermarle, North Carolina, on Sept. 30, 2014.

Thompson recently spoke to WKU Public Radio about the research findings. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

What were you hoping to learn when you set out on this research project?

We knew there would be misinformation—that’s what happens when people go into that (a school shooting) so fast, and they’re posting  whatever, and they pull off what somebody else says, and it just kind of builds from there.

I think what’s useful about the research is that we were able to pinpoint the specific areas where the misinformation occurs. We found five or six categories.

Rob Canning, WKMS

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Bob King says Kentucky’s recent strides in economic recovery have not been reflected in its funding for higher education.

The CPE was at Murray State University Tuesday evening as part of its series of town hall debates to gather input on the new five-year strategic initiative plan.

An audience of about 100 educators, business leaders and local and state government officials were present for the forum in MSU's Freed Curd Auditorium.

One of the key challenges outlined in King's presentation was finding alternative funding.

State Funding

Since the 2008 recession, Kentucky colleges have had to cut budgets and raise tuition in light of reduced state appropriations. Although some state experts say the Commonwealth is now on an economic upswing, King says colleges are still struggling to maintain quality programs with reduced funding levels.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is holding a series of public meetings around the state to gather input on a new five-year plan for higher education.  On Monday night, a meeting will take place at Somerset Community College. 

CPE President Bob King says affordability remains a key area of concern.  Because of higher tuition and tighter state funds, public universities now get more money from their students than from the state.

"Not that long ago, the state contribution to the universities on a per-student basis picked up about two-thirds of the cost of educating a student and tuition picked up about one-third," King told WKU Public Radio.  "That has completely reversed in about a ten-year period."

University presidents will lobby the General Assembly next year to increase higher education funding for the first time since 2008. 

Lawmakers will also be asked to switch to a performance funding model which would administer state funds based on the number of graduates or degrees that a school produces.

The remaining public meetings will be held from 6-8pm at these locations:

  • Monday, July 20: Harold Rogers Student Commons, Community Room, Somerset Community College, Somerset.
  • Tuesday, July 21: Collins Industry and Technology Center, Freed Curd Auditorium, Murray State University, Murray.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Rieveschel Digitorium, Griffin Hall 201, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights.

Kentucky teenagers and administrators are bracing themselves for a new state dropout law that will go into effect on July 1 in most school districts.

The dropout age is being raised from 16 to 18, meaning some students who legally left the education system will now have to return to school.

17-year-old dropouts say it is pointless to make them return because they plan on dropping out again upon their next birthday. Administrators, meanwhile, are not relishing the new task of trying to track down the juveniles and bring them back.

   Newport Independent Schools administrator Mike Wills says the law will be hard to enforce. Aside from filing charges and taking a student or the student's parents to court, there's not much recourse for districts, he says.


Gov. Steve Beshear has appointed Carol Martin "Bill" Gatton to be a lifetime honorary trustee of the University of Kentucky, where Gatton is the largest single donor.

Gatton has given more than $45 million to his alma mater, including $20 million for a new student center. That gift is the largest in UK's history. The Carol Martin Gatton Academy for Mathmatics and Science on the campus of Western Kentucky University is named in his honor.

Gatton's last term as a trustee ends this month. Honorary status makes him a non-voting member of the board.

Beshear said the designation would allow the board to continue to benefit from Gatton's "wisdom, counsel and guidance."

Bowling Green Independent School District

Bowling Green High School has named William King as its new principal. 

King had been serving as the Freshman Principal of Bowling Green High for the past five years.  Before that, he spent three years as the school’s Literacy Coach and Curriculum Coordinator and five years as a social studies teacher. 

King is a graduate himself of Bowling Green High.  He holds Bachelor's, Master's and Rank 1 degrees from WKU.

King replaces former principal Gary Fields who was promoted to superintendent of city schools.