Charters, Pensions, and Funding

Those are the Big 3 issues identified by Commissioner Terry Holliday for the 2015 legislative session.

Holliday outlined his thoughts on the 2015 session in a December post on his blog.

He notes that if charters are adopted at all, it will likely be a small pilot program that would allow for a handful of charters in districts with especially troubling achievement gaps (likely JCPS).

The Prichard Committee has been reviewing the research on charters and will likely weigh-in at some point, too.

Teacher pension reform has been and will continue to be a hot legislative topic.

Essentially, the Kentucky General Assembly balanced the state budget for years in part by under-funding the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System.

Now, their negligence has caught up with them and teachers may see benefit changes or reductions in future payments by way of adjusted (down) cost-0f-living increases.

Holliday also says that while the session is not a budget session, some funding issues may surface.

Another potential topic of interest is allowing school systems to merge in order to maximize financial efficiency.

Tune in this session for more on the big education issues facing Kentucky policymakers.

For more on education policy and politics in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

Pension Reform in 2015?

Kentucky legislators will consider a number of plans designed to reform the state’s pension plan for teachers, the Courier-Journal reports.

The Kentucky General Assembly has been tinkering with the pension plan in recent years in an attempt to shore up unfunded liabilities.

Proposals this year would seek to adjust future benefit payments and decrease cost-of-living increases.

The shortfall is a result of lack of proper funding over time by the General Assembly.

Some proposals would continue the practice of using borrowing through bonds to fund pension obligations, but it is likely that changes to benefits will also be required.

According to the report, a number of lawmakers oppose additional bonds to fund the system and are looking at more significant reform.

From the story:

So far, legislators have pre-filed at least four bills that would alter some aspect of teacher pensions, and leaders from both the House and Senate say any bonding needs to be paired with reforms.

“There is not a lot of enthusiasm for borrowing more money to pay off the KTRS debt without structural changes accompanying that effort,” said Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Career Pathways for Kentucky Teachers

Brian Bishop of Hope Street Group offers his thoughts on moving beyond the one-lane dirt road that currently makes up the career pathway for teachers.

Bishop notes:

As my time with teachers has evolved, I have learned one very disturbing fact about the current design of our education system: Teachers are limited in how they can further their career. When a teacher starts to teach, professional advancement is really limited. A teacher can attain their master’s degree and get a small pay bump, or a teacher can become a National Board Certified Teacher and get another small incremental pay raise. Short of these methods, there is no other real systemic opportunity that allows the teacher to do what they love to do and advance their career while remaining in the classroom a the same time.

Bishop outlines the problem, notes there are solutions, and says it is now time to move beyond talking and start acting on improving career pathways for teachers.

Read it all here.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Charter Schools in Kentucky?

Would adding charter schools to the mix help Kentucky reach its education goals? That’s the question the Prichard Committee is asking.

The answer, so far, is mixed. That’s because Prichard is looking at research on charters and finding out that the results of charters are mixed. Some do very well, some do not so well, and most are no better or worse than traditional public schools.

And the Prichard folks note that Kentucky made a different choice in terms of reform direction back in 1990 and that it has served the Commonwealth quite well.

That said, they are going to be doing more to understand if charter schools would be a useful tool as Kentucky seeks to continue improving its public schools.

Here’s a snapshot of the research, from CREDO, that demonstrates the results of America’s two-decade plus experiment with charter schools:

More on charter schools:

Kentucky Chamber Backs Charters

Charter Lessons from Ohio

Does Kentucky Need Charter Schools?

Rand Paul Gets it Wrong on Charter Schools

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

PGES and the New Teacher

Todd County Central High School Science Teacher Pennye Rogers, a 2014-15 Hope Street Group Fellow, talks about the new PGES evaluation system and what it means for the beginning teacher.

Here are some highlights of what she has to say over at the Prichard Blog:

 I have heard conversations that stated: “PGES is not good for new teachers.” The explanation was that new teachers don’t have the skills necessary to promote student growth, nor are they competent in the strategies to teach the content. But, it is my understanding that the peer observer is to encourage the observed teacher to reflect upon his/her teaching practices and guide them toward improvement. It is important to note that a single peer observation may not be enough in this situation. However, a new teacher would most likely have a mentor already through the KY Teacher Internship Program. I find it disturbing that new teachers who have the potential to become great teachers may be let go at an increased rate and blamed on PGES because he/she cannot score high enough on the evaluation scale! New teachers simply don’t have the experience and confidence necessary to excel in all areas evaluated.

Here, Rogers is recommending that administrators take note of the potential impact of PGES on a new teacher. Additionally, a new teacher’s KTIP mentor should assist that teacher in advocating for his/her needs as it relates to the evaluation.

The KTIP program is a fairly intense mentorship of first-year teachers that provides support, feedback, and guidance in the critical early phase of teaching. Combining effective mentorship with the new evaluation model is an important element in the future success of PGES.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

Jeff Hoover on Teacher Pensions

House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover attempts to use teacher pension reform as an argument in favor of electing a GOP majority to the Kentucky House.

In an article for the Courier-Journal, he points out:

The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report issued by KTRS this past December shows the system had approximately 75,000 active and 47,000 retired members. The report states the funding level this past year was 51.9 percent, with $13.85 billion in unfunded liabilities. According to data released by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce this past week, a key reason for this underfunding is actual employer contributions to the system have been significantly less than the amount required to sustain financial obligations.

Hoover is right to note that the teacher pension system may soon face problems. Not being able to pay benefits promised and owed would be devastating.

And, in his article, he’s simply calling for the creation of a task force to examine the issue and make recommendations.

That, too, seems reasonable.

Fixing the pension problem won’t be easy and it will take political courage.

But, let’s be clear: Teachers are not the ones who failed to properly fund the pension system for years and years. Teachers did not make promises they couldn’t meet. Teachers should not bear the brunt of any proposed pension reform. The budget in Kentucky should not be balanced on the backs of Kentucky’s teachers.

Comprehensive reform that ensures the teacher pension fund is able to meet future obligations must include proper funding of those obligations. That will mean that new revenue must go to the fund OR that other programs are cut to make room in the budget for teacher pensions.

Kentucky made a promise to its teachers. Kentucky’s political leadership should keep that promise.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport

 

 

School Facilities and Student Learning

The Prichard Blog has a story today on what has happened to school facilities in Kentucky since the Rose case.  That’s the case that determined that Kentucky’s school funding was inadequate and mandated a new formula. It’s what led up to KERA and the SEEK funding formula.

The study, by Caroline Wilson, details the impact on student learning of school facilities.

Specifically, Wilson notes:

The findings suggest that the additional facilities funding since the Rose decision created a teaching and learning environment that supported the tenets of an adequate education that previously had not been realized.

That is to say that the Rose decision had a positive impact on the facilities available for student learning and that this, in turn, positively impacted student learning.

Wilson examined 5 building features to determine first, if they had improved and then, if the improvement had impacted student learning.

The features included:

Five features were selected for examination: security, technological readiness, lighting, thermal comfort and air quality.

The full study details exactly how the Rose decision impacted facility funding in Kentucky and how it specifically impacted the student learning environment under study.

The bottom line is this: The study suggests that the funding formula changes after the Rose decision have improved the learning environment for Kentucky kids.  Kentucky has continued to fund education reform and it appears to be paying off in terms of improved facilities and better outcomes for students.

For more on Kentucky education policy and politics, follow @KYEdReport

 

Community Outreach and Common Core Success

The Center for American Progress has a new report out: Roadmap for a Successful Transition to the Common Core in States and Districts in which recommendations for transitioning to the Common Core State Standards are made.

The report highlights states and districts getting things right about Common Core implementation. Specifically, the report mentions Kentucky’s efforts around community engagement and the Common Core State Standards.

Noteworthy is the mention of the aggressive communication efforts by the Kentucky Department of Education in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Regarding the success of these efforts, the report notes:

The expansive outreach campaign has helped the vast majority of teachers feel comfortable and ready to teach the Common Core standards. Last November and December, the Kentucky Department of Education conducted an anonymous, voluntary survey to gauge educator attitudes about the state’s new standards. According to survey findings, 86 percent of respondents believe that they are prepared to teach the standards, and 90 percent believe that the new standards are more rigorous than the previous standards.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards and the state has consistently communicated expectations to both teachers and the larger community.  The coordinated communication effort appears to be paying off in a successful implementation of the standards.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Building Partnerships for School Readiness

OVEC CEO Dr. Leon Mooneyhan has some thoughts on building partnerships for school readiness over at the Prichard Blog.

Here are some highlights:

Research by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman  shows that quality preschool experiences impact character development that leads to increases in monthly income and the probability of employment and decreases in lifetime arrests, felony arrests, violent crimes, teen pregnancy and tobacco use.

Keeping Heckman’s research in mind, the Hardin County Schools begin their work at birth. The district’s “Books for Babies” project provides every baby born at Hardin Memorial Hospital a copy of “Read to Your Bunny” by Rosemary Wells

Mooneyhan notes that the partnerships involve the entire community, including childcare providers, medical providers, and educators.  It’s a team effort to get kids off to the right start.  And in Hardin County, Kentucky it’s making a difference.

Read more

 

Education Advocacy in Kentucky

Oldham County High School Spanish Teacher Kip Hottman offers his take on advocacy in Kentucky.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Last, but not least, I have had the pleasure of witnessing what Kentucky teachers are implementing in their classrooms. I am absolutely amazed at the passion and best practice that happens daily in classrooms all over our state, and I think that the students are blessed to be part of classroom environments in which they participate.

I love teaching and want to continue to advocate for my students, but I have learned that to be an educator I should advocate for all students, not just those that I see daily. My eyes are now open. My world has changed and I have to show some much needed respect to all of these organizations and to the wonderful educators in our state. So, I end this blog by addressing all those who advocate for our students by saying a simple, “Thank you Kentucky! Thank you for all that you do!”

The article breaks down the key education advocacy groups in Kentucky — though it leaves out Kentucky Association of School Administrators and the Kentucky School Boards Association.  Of course, Hottman’s piece is focused primarily on those who advocate on behalf of teachers.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport