(LEX 18) — Over the last few years, public education has been one of the biggest topics at the Capitol.
When budget cuts and pension changes were being discussed, teachers showed up in groups of thousands to make sure their voices were being heard. Now, it's clear those topics will once again be big priorities in the upcoming 2020 legislative session.
The Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS) outlined it's legislative and advocacy priorities for the upcoming year at a press conference on Tuesday.
"The next legislative session begins in just over two months, and there are a number of education-related issues that must be addressed by the General Assembly," said KASS Executive Director Dr. Jim Flynn. "As an organization, KASS is prepared to work with our elected officials to make our views on these issues known, and to support decision-making by our lawmakers that will benefit every Kentuckian, most notably our public school students and those who serve them, over the short and long terms."
Overall, the issues the group has in mind come down to funding.
"Bottom-line, Kentucky needs to make a stronger investment in its public schools," said Somerset Independent Superintendent Kyle Lively.
Priority "1a" for the group is "educator development and support and building a strong pipeline." This is about Kentucky's ability to attract, retain, and develop high-quality educators.
"There is absolutely no question that the primary factor influencing student learning, achievement, and success is the quality of the professional educators working directly with our students," said Scott Hawkins, Woodford County Superintendent. "To ensure we have quality educators, we must have a strong pipeline of incoming teachers, as well as current teachers who are well prepared, highly motivated, and have the opportunity to teach effectively. That means the Commonwealth must provide for competitive salaries, a healthy benefits package, a secure retirement, ongoing professional development that improves the teacher's instructional practices and knowledge of their academic content."
Priority "1b" for the group is "adequate and equitable funding for public education." This means getting enough money to properly educate students.
"Education now makes up 43% of the state's budget, compared to 52% it comprised of 22 years ago," said Superintendent Lively. "Though the base SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funding has seen modest increases, this has been offset with cuts in and/or the elimination of critical programs including Safe Schools, preschools, textbooks and instructional materials, professional development, and training for new teachers and administrators."
The group also has five other critical priorities. They're calling them the "Five P's."
1. Pension Reform
4. Principal Selection
5. Protecting Our Schools
"Number one: pension reform. A sound pension system is critical to the dial of attracting and retaining quality educators," said Marion County Superintendent Taylora Schlosser.
"Number two: privatization. Public schools must be fully funded. Privatization efforts divert funds from education and the public school system at a time when we are struggling with under-funding. Privatization proposals tend to shift funding from rural areas to population centers,"said Schlosser.
"Number three: purview. School boards and superintendents must have a greater voice in advocating for curriculum instruction. There must be a balance of authority in these critical areas, while maintaining a strong voice for our teachers and our parents," said Schlosser.
"Number four: principal selection. Superintendents must be given the authority to hire principals in consultation with SBDM Council (School Board Decision Making Council)," said Schlosser.
"Number five: protecting our schools. Additional and continual steps must be taken to enhance school safety including fully funding the School Safety and Resiliency Act, which is Senate Bill 1, implemented in 2019," said Schlosser.