Frankfort Local News

Budget Cuts Will Mean Delay in Education Reforms

More cuts to Kentucky’s education budget will slow down the implementation of a landmark reform law.

Senate Bill 1 is a wide-ranging education law that replaced Kentucky’s school testing system with stronger tests and content standards. Currently only English and math standards have been developed. And with a 4.5 percent cut planned for the Department of Education in Governor Steve Beshear’s latest budget proposal, new standards in other subjects are going to be delayed.

“I think the reality is, it is what it is with the existing budget situation,” says Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “So I think all we’re trying to get is as much flexibility to implement Senate Bill 1 as possible and also an awareness we may have to slow down on a few components of Senate Bill 1 til budgets pick back up.”

Those components are the new standards for science and social studies.

House legislators don’t appear concerned with the threat of a slowdown. But Holliday says the delays could last for five years if cuts are made now. Additionally, a projected increase in students will mean a five dollar per pupil reduction in SEEK formula funding, which will not be increased under Beshear’s budget proposal.

In all, the department requested an additional $43 million dollars to help with school improvements, college readiness and other important projects. After a budget committee meeting today, Holliday said he doesn’t expect his department will receive any of those funds.

Local News

Kentucky-In; Indiana-Out for Race to the Top Funds

Kentucky was on the list of 16 finalists the U.S. Department of Education announced today in the running for more than $4 billion in Race to the Top funds. But Indiana is out. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement Thursday and said the department would interview representatives from the 16 finalists in mid March and announce the eventual winners in April.

Kentucky has applied for $200 million in Race to the Top funds. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says his department is already preparing for its presentation.

“What we’re doing is trying to make sure that we have all the right team members,” Holliday says. “And we’re looking at all the other applications and saying, what’s different about Kentucky that we can make sure to reinforce at the presentation, and just making sure that we have good, clear deployment plans ready to go to work.”

Holliday says the state’s application included a lot of work that is already underway.

“We have a very comprehensive reform package that was led pretty much by our reform legislation in 2009 called Senate Bill 1,” he says. “And it pretty much mirrored exactly what Race to the Top was looking for.”

Last year, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1 to revamp the state’s K-12 education system.

Some political observers and education experts had doubted that Kentucky would make the cut given that it doesn’t have a law allowing charter schools. Holliday says he didn’t see that as an obstacle.

“Our Kentucky Reform Act of 1990 actually created 1.200 charter schools in Kentucky,” he says. “All of our schools have site-based councils that are composed of parents and they make curriculum decisions. They hire the principal. We could find nothing that a charter school does that our site-based councils couldn’t already do.”

Holliday says the news is encouraging at a time when education is facing budget cuts.

Indiana, however, did not make the cut. Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett says he got the news via e-mail and Twitter messages. He says it was disappointing, especially after the state worked to meet criteria the federal education department gave states that applied. It included having charter schools and policies linking student data to teacher evaluations.

Bennett says the news doesn’t mean the Indiana plan is dead.

“We have told school corporations across the state of Indiana that we will implement this reform plan whether we are funded or not,” he says. “And the fact is we don’t believe money will solve the problem. What will solve the problem is for us to have the political courage, the political will to truly reform education in this state and we’re going to implement our reform agenda as we have planned.”

Bennett says he’s not sure how Indiana will handle its application in a second contest for funds due in June.

“We’re going to wait and see what we get back from the federal government, what feedback we get back from our technical advisors,” he says. “Obviously our interests will always be to pursue this reform money, but again, I’ll always back that up and say I don’t believe this is about money.”

Nearby states also on the list include Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois.

Local News

New Education Standards Set to be Confirmed This Week

Three education entities in Kentucky will take part in a special meeting this week to finalize new education standards for the state.

The Kentucky Board of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Education Professionals Standards Board will meet Wednesday evening and sign the new standards.

Board of Education spokesperson Lisa Gross says the process started when the legislature effectively killed the state’s accountability testing system last summer.

“It’s an unprecedented meeting, but they will sign a resolution adopting the common core state standards,” says Gross. “That is one of the mandates of Senate Bill 1, that we have higher, clearer, more in-depth academic standards that students will be assessed on.”

Gross says the next steps will be to hash out the new standards and how they’ll apply to teachers and classrooms.

The state school board also meets Wednesday morning in regular session.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Advocates Want State to Include Arts Ed in Application

Arts advocates in Kentucky are encouraging citizens to request that arts education be addressed in the state’s application for a federal grant. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Arts Kentucky is asking stakeholders in education — from parents to business people — to participate in a survey recently put out by the state’s Department of Education. The survey is intended to get feedback on ideas the state is considering in its application for some of the $4 billion offered under the federal Race to the Top fund.

Arts Kentucky’s David Cupps says each state has to cite specifically how it wants to use the funds.

“In order to actually get money that can be applied toward arts programs, the state has to include that in their proposal.So, we’re trying to encourage people to let the state know that the arts are important to them in the educational system,” Cupps says. “We believe that arts is an integral part of having effective educational systems and especially in getting kids to be more creative and preparing them for the workforce of tomorrow.”

Cupps says the funding could help ensure arts education is assessed at schools statewide in the wake of Senate Bill 1 passed last spring. The legislation to revamp Kentucky’s student testing system requires the state to assess arts programs at schools.

The U.S. Department of Education has set its first deadline in December for applying states. It expects to award the first round of funds in early 2010. The department also had another dealine for states in the late Spring of 2010, with awards slated for September.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Art Education to Have New Assessment Policy

Art education policies are a major topic at this weekend’s annual conference Kentucky Art Education Association in Lexington.. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Last spring, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which changed reforms enacted with the Kentucky Education Reform Act; it scrapped the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System or CATS.

Now, arts teachers are looking to the state for new policies that assure the arts a place in the K-12 curriculum. So says Judy Haynes, president of the Kentucky Art Education Association.

Haynes says educators will hear from Kentucky Department of Education officials Saturday about a program review it’s constructing to make sure art is taught and student performance is evaluated.

“I think the program review will help ensure our place in the educational system,” she says. “I think we have made some strides here, but I think we have some more to make.”

Haynes says many arts educators were not satisfied with the CATS test.

“We were assessing how well they understood vocabulary, how well they could write and address open-response questions,” she says. “And now, I think that performance will factor in as a key role in music, theater and dance —  and in the visual arts.”

Haynes says arts education was fairly strong in Kentucky already, but this new program review promises to improve it.

“In Kentucky, we are a leader in this area in the nation, and many of the states and national organizations are looking to us to see how this works,” she says.

Haynes says the DOE is expected to complete the review in November and pilot it in several schools beginning in January.

Arts and Humanities Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

House Bill on Education Concerns Arts Advocates

The Kentucky House of Representatives will consider a bill this week to revamp the state’s student testing system. Some say it could weaken arts and humanities instruction. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

House Bill 508 is a response to Senate Bill 1. Both would overhaul testing in public schools to improve school, student and teacher performance.

Some arts advocates and educators aren’t happy with either bill because both do away with testing on the arts and humanities. They also say the House bill, which offers criteria for reviewing schools’ arts and humanities programs, is too vague.

David Cupps of the advocacy group Arts Kentucky says the legislation doesn’t ensure that students will get arts and humanities instruction.

“There’s so many issues that they’re trying to solve with this legislation that it’s easy for the arts to get lost or for them not to completely get all the language in there that they need to,” Cupps says.

Many educators and lawmakers say the current testing system is too time consuming and does not offer constructive information.

Cupps says instruction in the arts and humanities should be mandatory and that any program evaluation should guarantee schools are adequatly teaching these subjects.

“We are suggesting that if they’re not going to have it in the testing — of course, we would like some testing in there — but if it’s not going to be part of the testing, then this program evaluation could still be part of the accountability matrix that they are being held accountable for,” Cupps says.