Legislators collaborate to improve education in the Commonwealth

  • It was a short legislative session filled with tough issues for Kentucky, but legislators did find time to collaborate on a number of bills designed to improve education attainment in the Commonwealth. It wasn’t the first time bills were introduced to address the increasing number of students who drop out of high school or to create a uniform evaluation system for teachers. But it was the first time lawmakers were able to reach compromises on these issues, ultimately making Kentucky’s students the top priority. Important bills that won legislative approval include:

    Raising the dropout age
    Nearly 25% of adults in Kentucky have less than a high school education, and the dropout rate continues to rise. That’s a startling fact when you consider that most jobs require at least a high school diploma. For many years, the Chamber has supported raising the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 18 while providing alternative learning tracks to keep students engaged in school. Leaders in Frankfort have been working toward a solution on this issue for several years. First Lady Jane Beshear has been a long-time champion of raising the dropout age as has Rep. Jeff Greer. This session, Sen. David Givens sponsored Senate Bill 97 to give local districts the ability to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 in the 2014-2015 school year. When 55% of all local school districts have adopted the policy, the compulsory attendance requirement will take effect statewide.

    Early Graduation
    Kentucky law states that all students must attend high school for four years. Unfortunately, that means some of our brightest students are forced to stay in high school, despite their drive and ability to move on to a postsecondary institution. In an effort to reward these students for their hard work and move them into the workforce at a quicker pace, Sen. Mike Wilson introduced Senate Bill 61 – a bill to allow high school juniors, who meet specific academic criteria, to graduate from high school early. The House later amended the bill by adding a provision that allows state funding distributed through the SEEK formula to be split between the school district and the student. The student can then use that money as a one-year scholarship to attend a college/university or trade/technical school.

    Teacher Evaluation
    Teachers play a defining role in shaping a child’s education – often the most important. That’s why it is critical the Commonwealth maintains a statewide standard of excellence and accountability among its teachers. House Bill 180, introduced by Rep. Carl Rollins, seeks to accomplish that by requiring the Kentucky Board of Education to establish an evaluation system for all certified personnel. The Kentucky Department of Education, along with teacher and principal steering committees, will develop a system prior to the 2014-2015 school year that takes into account student progress, administrator and peer observations and parent surveys.

    The Chamber applauds the bipartisan effort legislators made in working to improve Kentucky’s education system. While several education issues remain unresolved following the legislative session, we are confident that Kentucky can continue making progress in education if lawmakers maintain this spirit of collaboration.

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    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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