Education

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A week after announcing the receipt of $6.3 million from the foundations of businessmen “Papa” John Schnatter and Charles Koch, the University of Louisville has released the underlying seven-year agreements.

The two documents affirm that the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise will be created by Dec. 1. It also states that the money will be spent on two tenure-track professorships, two visiting professors, center staff and expenses, up to five research grants, up to four doctoral fellowships, and classes, seminars and annual lectures.

Abbey Oldham / WKU Public Radio

An all-day speaker series in Bowling Green this week is dedicated to encouraging participants to make their innovative ideas a reality.

IdeaFestival Bowling Green is being held this Friday at the Downing Student Union Auditorium on WKU’s campus.  The school’s Innovate Kentucky Executive Administrator, Josh Raymer, says some of the topics discussed at this year’s event will include cancer research, branding and imaging, and making online content more social.

“And what we love is that these speakers all come from Kentucky, or neighboring states. So it truly is an example for everyone that these big ideas that you see in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago—they’re also happening right here in Kentucky.”

Another topic that will be addressed by several speakers is the future of the automotive industry.

“A lot of Corvette tie-ins, which is appropriate, given that it’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green,” said Raymer. “But once again, that’s about how important it is to stay on the cutting edge of innovation, especially in a hyper-competitive field like the automotive industry.”

The Bowling Green event is an off-shoot of the IdeaFestival held in Louisville each fall since 2000.

More information about this year’s IdeaFestival Bowling Green can be found here.

The University of Kentucky's board of trustees has approved a 3 percent increase for in-state students this fall.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is expected to vote on the proposal next month. The in-state undergraduate increase would bring first-year tuition to $10,780.

Tuition for non-resident students would increase 6 percent.

UK said in a news release that housing rates will increase by 3 percent. Dining rates will increase for most plans from 2.4 percent to 3.6 percent.

The council last year approved allowing Kentucky universities to increase tuition by up to 8 percent over two years. UK approved a 5 percent increase last year.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is freezing tuition at current rates for the 2015-16 academic year. 

The Board of Regents previously approved a $3 per credit hour increase for next year. The board’s decision will keep rates at $147 per credit hour for in-state students, $294 per credit hour for out-of-state students from contiguous counties, and $515 per credit hour for all other out-of-state students.

President Jay Box says the tuition relief comes despite KCTCS receiving less state funding.

"We've had ongoing increases especially since 2008 when the General Assembly decided to start reducing our state appropriations," Box told WKU Public Radio.  "Since 2008, we've lost $38 million or 17% of state appropriations coming our way."

KCTCS has seen enrollment an enrollment decrease since 2011, which Dr. Box attributes to more people going back to work following the recession.

Dr. Box says the 16 KCTCS campuses in Kentucky remain committed to being the most affordable option for higher education in the state.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s $3.3 billion bonding bailout of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System won’t pass this session, but a smaller study-and-finance package may still be in the works.

The retirement system only has 53 percent of the money it needs to make future payouts to more than 140,000 retired and active teachers in the state. The state’s required contributions to the system will double by 2026, according to KTRS officials.

On Tuesday, the Senate rejected $3.3 billion in bonding for the retirement system proposed by the House, replacing it with language that would require a committee of lawmakers and experts to identify problems in the pension system and come up with a report on possible solutions by December.

Now a conference committee comprised of representatives and senators will try to come up with a compromise to the two proposals.

Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg said the legislature was in a similar situation in 2013 when lawmakers addressed the cousin of the teacher retirement system—the Kentucky Retirement Systems.

“The Senate kind of wanted reforms but it didn’t want to address the pending issue of financial stability and money,” Stumbo said. “We want to make sure that the fund is financially sound, and we’re willing to listen to some of their suggestions on reforms if they’re willing to do something on the financial stability side.”

In that 2013 session, the legislature required the state to make recommended contributions to the KRS, created a separate pension fund for new hires and limited their benefits. The reforms have been considered successful by some, however KRS still only has 21 percent of the money it needs to make future payouts.

Stumbo said bonding should be included in a solution this year because interest rates are favorable. KTRS officials said the state can borrow money at a 4 percent interest rate and a 7 percent return from its investments in the system.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, hasn’t said if he would consider bonding in a final bill. But he said he’s willing to compromise.

WKU Sigma Alpha Epsilon Advisor Randy Shockey says the actions of just a few members have caused harm to the entire organization nationally.

The SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma was closed and some members left school after a video went viral showing them singing a racist song saying no African-American would ever become a fraternity member.

Shockey said that's not his fraternity is all about, "It's a wonderful organization and it's disappointing something like this has given us a black eye," Shockey said, "I don't think this is indicative of the fraternity as a whole." He added, "That's not what we stand for and not what we try to instill in our young men."

Shockey said there are currently no African-American members of WKU's fraternity but there have been in the past and they're welcome again in the future. Because of spring break, Shockey hasn't had a chance to talk to the chapter members about the incident yet but says he will this Sunday at their regular weekly meeting.

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John Schnatter’s long-running, multi-generational ties to the University of Louisville just grew $4.64 million deeper.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the university’s College of Business, President James Ramsey confirmed a $6.3 million, seven-year grant that will fund the establishment, staffing and operation of the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise. Scheduled to open in the fall, the center will “engage in teaching and research that explores the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing society.”

The source of Schnatter’s wealth, the publicly owned Papa John’s International pizza chain, is already emblazoned across the UofL campus. Through gifts exceeding $20 million, the company and John and Annette Schnatter have helped build Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for football and Cardinal Park for mens’ and womens’ sports.

“We’ve been fairly successful in business at Papa John’s and we want to share that with entrepreneurs and teach these kids how to be successful,” he said. “If we can get just one or two kids from the $6 million, it will be money well spent.” Their share of the gift is equal to the cost of 515,555 small pepperoni pizzas at Papa John’s.

The $4.64 million from Schnatter’s family foundation will be boosted by $1.66 million from the Charles Koch Foundation.The $6.3 million will go toward two tenure-track and two visiting professors, up to five research grants and up to four doctoral fellowships, as well as classes, a speaker series, seminars and salaries for center staff.

Free enterprises centers funded by the Charles Koch Foundation at George Mason University, Florida State University, the University of Kansas and other U.S. colleges have ignited controversy in their collision with dominant liberal arts cultures. Opponents have objected to contracts that give the Koch Foundation authority over hiring and curricula.

Ditching The Common Core Brings A Big Test For Indiana

Mar 12, 2015

Every eldest child knows all too well: Going first can be tough.

There's no one to help you pick the good teachers at school or give you advice on how to tell Mom and Dad about that fender bender.

Right now, Indiana is the firstborn, feeling its way through some thorny — and consequential — education decisions with little precedent to lean on.

WKU

WKU is one step closer to offering a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

The Council on Postsecondary Education has approved the school’s proposal, which would allow students to pursue degrees in four tracts: fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and script-writing for film.

WKU is hoping the film component is something that will help the school’s new program stand out.

“We’re an hour away from Nashville, which has a thriving film industry. We’re about five hours away from Atlanta, which has a thriving film industry. And we have many undergraduates already working in film in Nashville, Atlanta, New Orleans,” said Dr. David Bell, English Professor and Director of Creative Writing at WKU.

If WKU receives approval from The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, it will admit its first class of students seeking the MFA in creative writing this fall.

Petition May Block Tax Increase for Muhlenberg Schools

Mar 10, 2015

A group that opposes a new utility tax meant to help the cash-strapped Muhlenberg County school district has filed a petition to block the measure from going into place.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports a petition with 3,200 signatures was turned in on Monday to the Muhlenberg County Clerk's office. Clerk Gaylan Spurlin says if at least 1,394 signatures are certified as being registered voters, the issue will go on the ballot in November.

The county school board voted in January to add a 3 percent utility tax, hoping it would bring in $1.5 million annually.

The board faces a nearly $5.5 million deficit this fiscal year. In addition to approving the tax, the board also voted to cut teacher salaries by 8 percent and lay off 51 teachers.

The state Senate recently approve a bill that would tie higher education funding to Kentucky universities’ ability to produce more and better graduates.

Critics of the present funding model say that schools are funded with an outdated system that doesn’t account for adjustments in enrollment numbers and graduation rates.

“The university system has to be responsive and we can’t keep graduating people, young men and women, that can’t be employed,” said Senate President Robert Stivers during a debate on Wednesday.

A national study finds Kentucky has the second-highest per-capita rate in the country of inappropriate behavior between school employees and students.

The research was conducted by Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education. His firm, Drive West Communications, examined media reports in every state daily in 2014. He tracked 22 cases in Kentucky last year.

Just as it is nationwide, Abbott found the problem of is mostly among male school employees. Abbott says the men were an average age of 41.

"Some people assume a lot of the teachers involved in these cases are kids right out of college almost the same age as the students they're teaching and they don't know any better.  That's simple not true," Abbott told WKU Public Radio.  "For the most part, these are educators who have a decade or more of experience in the classroom."

Abbott’s study also revealed that private messages through social media and text messaging were involved in 36 percent of the cases in Kentucky. 

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A voluntary survey that Kentucky teachers take every two years is now available online.

It’s known as the Kentucky TELL survey and its meant to measure what teachers think of their schools, resources, leadership and community support. If a majority of teachers at a particular school take the survey, then that school can use the data as part of its ongoing improvement plan.

Nearly 90 percent of teachers across the state took the survey in 2013. If found that many teachers thought poorly of their schools access to technology. Also, half of respondents wanted more professional development on the new standards known as common core. 

The education department says legislators and policymakers may also use the information to develop and implement changes.

The voluntary and anonymous survey is open until March 31.

Reading, Writing and CPR In Kentucky High Schools?

Feb 27, 2015

Kentucky's public high schools would be expected to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation training to students under a bill that has passed the state House.

The measure would require that the CPR training be included in health education curriculum.

The bill cleared the House on a 94-1 vote Thursday and now goes to the Senate.

Democratic Rep. Jeff Greer of Brandenburg says training more people in CPR will save lives.

Schools don't like to use the V-word anymore — "vocational," as in "vocational education." Administrators say the word is outdated, along with the idea of offering job-training courses only to students who are going straight into the workforce.

Nashville, Tenn., is trying a new approach. The public school system there is encouraging every high school student, regardless of college plans, to take three career-training classes before they graduate.

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