Assembly continues work on school issues
Published 1:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2023
District 54 Representative
The period between legislative sessions is often overlooked, but it plays a pivotal role in preparing for the next legislative session. Lawmakers use this time to better educate themselves on policy, as well as identifying how state agencies and programs could improve how they serve Kentuckians. Last week, 18 legislative committees and task forces met to discuss next session’s agenda. With this legislative update, I would like to focus on the efforts of the Interim Joint Committee (IJC) on Education, and task forces created to study campus safety and security issues and how lottery funds are invested in education.
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Without a doubt, education is a priority issue for the legislature and you need to look no further than the budget for evidence. The legislature allocated a historic amount of funding for education, more than $4.5 billion each year to benefit Kentucky students. Now legislators are working to ensure those dollars reach the classroom and what changes we need to make to help teachers address pandemic-related learning loss and improve proficiency in core subjects like reading and math. Frankly, much of the conversation is dominated by the teacher shortage across the nation and in our state. We are working with our local officials, school districts, and post-secondary institutions to expand our investment in our schools and educators. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year the teacher turnover rate was a staggering 20.4%. Considering this, the legislature is working to recruit and retain educators, encouraging programs like Green County’s Grow Your Own and Western Kentucky University’s (WKU) teacher apprenticeship.
IJC on Education: Members heard testimony from educators on solving the teacher shortage in Kentucky and from the CEO of Plasma Games—a science-based game which can be implemented into the classroom to improve hard science education in middle and high schools. The superintendents of four Kentucky school districts gave testimony on ways to address the teacher shortage, particularly how to foster a desire to teach within the students in our high schools now. Representatives from Green County Public Schools spoke on the success of the school districts Grow Your Own initiative that helps students pursuing a career in education. The Superintendent of Nelson County Schools was joined by faculty of WKU as they presented their Teaching Apprenticeship program that is launching this school year. The superintendent of Livingston County Schools spoke on behalf of the Coalition to Sustain the Education Profession prescribing ways to retain educators in the state.
Task Force on School and Campus Safety: Lawmakers were presented a review of SB 1 from 2019. Mandates and requests from the bill and subsequent alterations from SB 8 in 2020 and HB 63 in 2022 were discussed with the taskforce. The focus of these bills was to harden our schools and to address mental health needs in our youth. The bills stipulate that each school campus must have a school resource officer, schools must have an electronic lock for main entryways into the facility, and the doors of classrooms must remain shut and locked during instructional periods. Lawmakers also addressed the mental health crisis in our state by expanding the school’s ability to foster a sense of community with suicide prevention programming, having a guidance counselor for every 250 students, and ensuring that a student is well known by at least one faculty member at the school they attend. SB 1 and its supporting bills have been used by 28 states as modules for school safety legislation, as lawmakers across the nation look for successful policy to keep our children safe.
Lottery Trust Fund Task Force: Committee members met this week to hear from many organizations regarding the use of Kentucky Lottery sales and continuing the lottery’s success. The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority all testified before committee members. The Kentucky Lottery corporation informed members how they are working to create more games to boost sales and continue to funnel money back into the state, as well as funding state scholarships; the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority both discussed the importance of scholarships funded by the Kentucky Lottery. Along with that, members expressed concern about students using scholarships to earn degrees that, ultimately, do not translate into career paths to financially support themselves—resulting in lower paying jobs, leading to greater student-debt.
As always, I can be reached anytime through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Daniel.Elliott@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky legislature’s home page at legislature.ky.gov.
Daniel Elliott is the District 54 Rep.