Education

All of Kentucky’s 173 public school districts have approved policies to increase the dropout age from 16 to 18. 

The General Assembly passed a law in 2013 giving school districts the option of raising the dropout age. Once 55 percent of districts did so, it would trigger a four-year deadline for everyone else to raise the age.  Democratic Governor Steve Beshear said districts beat that deadline by one year.

"What we've done is send a message," said Beshear in a news conference Thursday.  "We've sent a message to the kids, their parents, and communities that education matters and that we care about these children."

All but seven public school districts will have the new policy in place this fall.  It will take effect for the rest in the 2017-18 school year. 

The Kentucky Department of Education provided each district with a $10,000 grant to help implement the higher dropout age.

Kentucky’s teacher pension policies are receiving near-failing grades in a new report.

The National Council of Teacher Quality gives the pension plan a D-, and points out that 48-percent of the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System consists of unfunded liabilities.

Council Vice President Sandi Jacobs says the vast majority of taxpayer funds going into the system isn’t being invested in the future retirement of current employees.

“Only 23 cents on the dollar—less than the national average—is going towards the cost of the system. About 77 cents are going toward the debt.”

KTRS currently has over $13 billion in unfunded liabilities. The state budget passed by lawmakers last year provided about half the money needed to bring KTRS into the black.

Jacobs says her group also considers the system’s five-year vesting period a negative feature.

“If you leave before five years you’re not eligible for future benefits. That’s a long time to wait.”

You can see the NCTQ’s report card on Kentucky’s teacher pension policy here.

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell believes a White House plan to make community college free has little chance of becoming reality.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Obama announced a plan to offer two years of tuition-free community college to students who maintained certain academic standards.

The effort would cost about $60 billion over ten years, with the federal government picking up three-quarters of the cost, and states paying for the rest.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio during a break in Friday's Board of Regents meeting, Ransdell said that’s an unsustainable model. 

“There’s no way I can be advocate for Kentucky putting money into that and continuing to cut higher education for the public universities."

Ransdell said he understands that the technical and associate’s degrees that many community college graduates earn help drive the manufacturing sector. 

“But the reality is, it’s bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees that drive the economy, and those are the people who are the decision-makers with the intellectual skills that go into driving the economy.”

As the new — and paid — president emeritus of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, Michael McCall will attend meetings, give advice, provide executive coaching, help hire new executives and help run a systemwide leadership academy now bearing his name.

The number of Kentucky children who are prepared for kindergarten is nearly unchanged over last year—half of kids entering school still don’t have the basic skills that the state deems as necessary to be “kindergarten-ready.”

The Kentucky Department of Education’s annual kindergarten readiness results released Wednesday show that 50 percent of children are prepared for a public education, a 1 percent increase from last year.

In Jefferson County Public Schools, 51.9 percent of children were ready for kindergarten this school year.

Last year, 52.3 percent of Jefferson County Public Schools’ kindergartners were ready—a higher rate than the state average, which was 49 percent. While that rate is still slightly higher than the state average, it’s a slight drop for JCPS.

The University of Louisville’s music school and athletics department will share a $12.6 million gift from retired pilot and investor Max Baumgardner of Louisville.

The $6.3 million donation to the School of Music is the largest planned gift in its 82-year history, the university said Tuesday in a news release.

The money will be used to create the Max Baumgardner Endowed Fund for Excellence in Jazz Studies.

Michael Tracy, head of U of L’s jazz program, said the funds will support faculty positions, scholarships and other programs, including studies abroad.

Bowling Green City Schools

The superintendent of Bowling Green Independent Schools has announced plans to retire. 

Joe Tinius has worked in the city school system since 1977 in a number of roles, including teacher, coach, and principal.  He became superintendent in 2005. 

In a letter submitted to the Board of Education, Tinius said after 37 years in education, he had reached the point in his life where he wanted to spend more time with his wife, children, and grandchild. 

He tells WKU Public Radio that while technology and education reforms have had major impacts on Kentucky’s classrooms, a teacher’s ability to connect with students remains vital.

“It is still, at the end of the day, that personal relationship that teachers develop with students that ultimately determines how much of an impact and effective the learning process is.”

Tinius says one of the biggest changes he’s seen over the years is the increasing diversity of the area’s student population, with major growth seen in the number of students who speak English as a second language. Tinius said school administrators have to be willing to connect with students and parents from international communities.

Kentucky educators are experimenting with possible changes to the state’s high school diploma.

The Kentucky Department of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Education Professional Standards Board are collaborating to consider ways that the high school diploma can better reflect the college and career achievements that students attain while in school.

The new diploma may also try to encourage students to pursue an education that will lead them to careers in foreign business.

Kentucky School districts are bracing for a mid-year state funding cut totaling nearly $8 million.

The cut is relatively small given the state’s $2.9 billion K-12 budget. 

Kentucky Department of Education Associate Commissioner Hirem Desai says the cuts are due to mostly higher than projected attendance which despite the funding cut, is a good thing. 

In Peter Maginot's sixth-grade class, the teacher is white, but all of his students are black. They're young and they're honestly concerned that what happened to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner could happen to them.

"Who can tell me the facts that we know about Mike Brown?" Maginot asks the class at Shabazz Public School Academy, an afro-centric school in Lansing, Mich.

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