Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) superintendents joined other K-12 leaders in a statewide Kentucky Association of School Superintendents (KASS) sponsored event on Tuesday, October 29, 2019. The sessions were designed to inform the news media and general public about the KASS Legislative & Advocacy Priorities for the 2020 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
KVEC broadcast the briefing live through the place-based social learning network The Holler www.theholler.org and Facebook Live.
The presenters from the Hazard location were: Mr. David Gibson, Paintsville Independent Superintendent; Mr. Thom Cochran, Johnson County Superintendent; Dr. Robbie Fletcher, Lawrence County Superintendent; Mr. Mike Genton, Jenkins Independent Superintendent; and, Mr. Danny Adkins, Floyd County Schools Superintendent
A major pillar in a successful Kentucky is a strong public-school system. In addition to preparing our children for post-secondary training and careers, public schools develop children to be healthy, productive, contributing members of society. Because our children represent our future, our economic prosperity depends, in large part, on our investment in our public schools. The Kentucky Association of School Superintendents presents these legislative priorities to help chart a path to a better Kentucky through stronger public schools.
A link to the live event is https://www.theholler.org/live/ The event has been archived for future viewing. Several hundred persons viewed the press conference on-line and questions were submitted at the close of the event.
Superintendent Gibson opened the session saying “We advocate for our priorities through the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, which works directly with legislators to share our concerns, needs, priorities, and recommendations. As an organization that represents school district superintendents across Kentucky, KASS believes that advocacy is critical to the success of our schools, and it is, therefore, our responsibility as education leaders to do just that: Advocate on behalf of our education system, the students we educate, and the professionals who serve them in our schools and school districts across this great Commonwealth.
“We will always work with all government officials, regardless of their party affiliation or political perspective, to advocate for these priorities. We do this because we recognize that Kentucky’s economic, social and cultural success depends on our investment in public schools. Simply stated: The quality of our education system is critical to our success as a state.
“As educators, our role is not only to prepare our future workforce, it’s to prepare our future citizens so they can contribute to society in many ways – as employees in the skilled trades, as professionals in business, industry, and government, as educators, as parents, and ultimately as responsible adults.
“So, our main goal is student achievement and ensuring that Kentucky is in the best position to make that happen. To summarize our objective, it’s to ensure that Kentucky has well-trained and professional educators and that those educators have the tools, funding and opportunity to do their jobs effectively and thoroughly,” Gibson added.
Superintendent Cochran said “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 students. 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 (that is, no barriers) to teach effectively. That means the Commonwealth must provide for:
- competitive salaries;
- a healthy benefits package;
- a secure retirement;
- ongoing training in the form of professional development that improves teachers’ instructional practices and knowledge of academic subjects;
- the tools – like instructional materials, technology, and other resources – teachers need to do the job right;
- allowing teachers to teach, rather than – as happens so often – making them take on roles like a counselor, social worker, nurse, psychologist, therapist, a police detective and even in some cases surrogate parent, all of which divert attention from their top priority, teaching. While we may need professionals trained to deliver these often-needed support services, we must ensure the working conditions for teachers allow them to focus on being instructional experts and delivering on our learning goals in an environment that is safe, clean, and inspires high performance.
Considering that the education sector is the one work sector that touches all others, this is an issue that needs immediate attention.
Superintendent Fletcher stated “Public School funding from the state must be adequate and equitable if we are to succeed. The lack of adequate and equitable funding impacts all students especially our most vulnerable and at-risk students and is most visibly notable in the areas of full-day kindergarten, preschool, and transportation. Transportation at 60%; preschool funding has dropped over 30% in the past 5-6 years; kindergarten is funded at approximately 50%; no funding for professional development. Fletcher continued:
- Education now makes up 43% of the state budget versus 52% it comprised 22 years ago.
- Though education is a state responsibility by Constitution, the burden of education funding is shifting from the state to local districts – which have limited means of raising much-needed revenue. The General Assembly should provide more flexibility for local school boards in their ability to implement or raise taxes to support their students.
- Though the base SEEK funding has seen modest increases, this has been off-set with cuts in and/or the elimination of critical programs, including safe schools, preschool, textbooks, and instructional materials, professional development and training for new teachers and administrators.
“Bottomline, Kentucky needs to make a stronger investment in its public schools. It’s an economic, workforce, and community development investment that will improve the quality of lives for Kentuckians now and in the future,” Fletcher added.
Superintendent Gent noted “While these are our top two priorities, there are several other areas that need to be addressed, and for which we will be advocating. We call them the “Five P’s.” They include:
- Pension Reform: A sound pension system is critical to the goal of attracting and retaining high-quality educators.
- Privatization: Public Education must be fully funded. Privatization efforts divert funds from the public school system at a time when schools are struggling with underfunding. Privatization proposals tend to shift funding from rural areas to population centers.
- Purview: School boards and superintendents must have a greater voice regarding curriculum and instruction. We advocate for a better balance of authority in these critical areas while maintaining a strong voice for teachers and parents.
- Principal Selection: Superintendents must be given authority to hire principals in consultation with SBDM Councils.
“Protecting Our Schools: Additional and continuing steps must be taken to enhance school safety including fully funding the School Safety and Resiliency Act (SB1 of 2019), “Gent closed by saying.
The superintendents encouraged the viewers to vote in next week’s election. Cochran stated, “Educators have always been committed to teaching students about civics and civic engagement. Although we have always done so, we are now required by law to do so. Of course, voting is just one of the many civic activities available to citizens. It allows all of us to share our individual voices as we participate in the democratic process.”
Fletcher added, “Because people have a right and responsibility to vote, KASS encourages every Kentuckian to do so. In that spirit, KASS is currently running a social media campaign to encourage Kentuckians to vote. We are doing so through a series of social media posts that say just that: “Vote!”