Prichard Committee Gets New Leader

From a press release:

LEXINGTON, Ky. – An education policy leader and long-time advocate for Kentucky’s children has been named executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Brigitte Blom Ramsey was chosen by the committee’s board of directors to succeed Stu Silberman, who will retire effective September 4, 2015. She has been associate executive director of the statewide citizens’ group since May of last year.

“We are very excited Brigitte has agreed to serve as our next executive director,” said Franklin Jelsma, a Louisville attorney who chairs the committee’s board. “Above all else, we were looking for a leader who is passionate about improving public education in Kentucky. That is Brigitte in a nutshell. She is driven by her desire to help children.”

Ramsey, a resident of Falmouth, is former director of public policy for United Way of Greater Cincinnati, where she provided leadership on early education initiatives and efforts to improve education funding. She served on the Kentucky Board of Education from May 2008, when she was appointed by the governor, until April 2014, when she left the board to take the Prichard Committee post. She held the position of vice chair during her last year on the state board.

Her background also includes work as an advocate for children and extensive experience as a researcher on state tax and budget issues and poverty in Kentucky. She’s been a member of Kentucky’s Early Childhood Advisory Council since 2010 and was an elected member of the Pendleton County Board of Education from 1998 to 2008. Ramsey holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Kentucky’s Martin School and undergraduate degrees from Northern Kentucky University.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead the next generation of the Prichard Committee’s work,” Ramsey said. “The progress in education and citizen engagement over the last three decades has been remarkable. I look forward to working with the committee’s members all across Kentucky to ensure our future success – on behalf of our students, our schools and our communities.”
Jelsma expressed the committee’s appreciation to Silberman, whose retirement will follow four years with the organization and 41 years in education, including work as superintendent of the Fayette County and Daviess County public school systems.

“We are deeply indebted to him for his years of service and his tireless work on behalf of education,” Jelsma said.

Silberman expressed strong support for his successor and excitement about the work ahead.
“Brigitte will do a fantastic job and continue the great work that began in 1983” when the committee was founded. “It has been a blessing to work beside her during this year, and I look forward to the four-month transition we will have together. The committee is in good hands as we move into the future.”

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

 

The “War” for Teaching Talent

Stu Silberman from the Prichard Committee turns over his blog at EdWeek to Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt who discussed the need for a War for Talent in Teaching.

Sheratt argues that baby-boomer retirements and a growing focus on the importance of teacher quality mean states and districts must do more to improve the teaching field, including improving HR practices.

Here are a few key takeaways:

Teaching must    both be and be perceived to be an exciting career for college students with many other options – including in law, business, and other    high-paying fields that are aggressively recruiting the next generation of talent.

How to do this? Better pay, paid professional development, targeted marketing that highlights the strengths of the profession.

I’ve written before about the importance of improving teacher pay.

And that is very important.  Governor Beshear has made a commitment to at least giving Kentucky teachers a well-deserved raise.

It’s also important to increase the respect afforded teachers.  Paid professional development is a part of that.  A marketing campaign highlighting the amazing things teachers do every day can help, too.

But, it’s frustrating to hear again and again about how important teacher quality is and not to hear about realistic, focused plans to improve compensation and the professional environment for teachers.

States can make investments in improving pay and support for teachers, but they choose not to. While many states have changed teacher evaluation and added some use of test scores to evaluate teachers, those same states have not placed a similar focus on improving pay.

While 2% for Kentucky teachers this year is a good start, it’s not the move toward winning the “talent war” Kentucky or other states need.

Choosing investments in schools, including better pay and support for teachers, is critical to improving education outcomes.  It requires difficult choices and the prioritization of education over other budget items.  That means leadership.  The lack of which will mean we’ll continue reading stories about America’s struggling education system for years to come.

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

 

Kentucky Education News – 11-22-13

This week saw a focused push by education advocates to convince the Kentucky General Assembly to restore education funding to 2008 levels.

Stu Silberman of the Prichard Committee penned this piece calling for a continued focus on progress.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brennen, the student member of the Prichard Committee, made a presentation during which he noted:

Some students pay $130 in fees, but don’t have access to textbooks. And those who do have textbooks often find them in “decrepit” shape, a tangible symbol of the cuts, said Brennen.

Finally, the Courier-Journal ran a story on Superintendent salaries, noting that while some have actually decreased and most have remained relatively flat in recent years, a number of districts have actually substantially increased Superintendent pay.

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

Silberman: Don’t Stop the Progress

Will Kentucky schools keep moving forward?

That’s the question Stu Silberman of the Prichard Committee is asking.

And he’s not alone.  To date, 100 Kentucky school districts have signed a letter calling for the restoration of SEEK funds to 2008 levels.

Education supporters have a rally planned in Frankfort for Thursday to press the case for increased support for schools.

And by increased support, they mean a return to 2008 funding levels.  Because while dollar amounts for SEEK have remained constant, the number of students in school has increased.  That means districts are being asked to do more (a lot more, due to Common Core and a continued push for high standards in Kentucky) with less.

As Silberman points out, the flex funds are critical, too.  Those dollars, now almost gone, provided the extra support to help those students and families most in need.

Without them, Silberman notes that students will simply fall behind.

Kentucky has made steady progress since 1990.  The 20-year trend in NAEP scores shows the state moving forward year after year.

That progress may well stop if proper investment in proven programs is not provided.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow us @KyEdReport

 

 

Kentucky Schools SEEK Funding Restoration

Gaming, Tax Reform among ideas for generating revenue for schools

Kentucky’s public schools are seeking a restoration of funding to 2008 levels in the 2014 budget year.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Kentucky school districts want to go back to 2008 funding levels.  That’s because funding has steadily been decreasing for Kentucky public schools.  First, the economic collapse in 2008 caused tough budget years.  Then, the legislature faced its own budget challenges because of a failure to address public pension underfunding.  So, the Kentucky General Assembly didn’t decrease funding in the SEEK formula, they just left it the same.  However, the number of students in Kentucky schools steadily increased over the past five years.  Meaning schools and districts are operating on less dollars per pupil than they were just 5 years ago.

In addition to flat SEEK funding, “flexible funds” for schools have actually decreased.  So, districts are left to either make up the funds locally (difficult in many rural communities) or, go without.  Districts report cutting items like foreign language and school counseling, even eliminating the use of buses for extra-curricular activities.

While districts have so far gotten by, they say that if the trend continues, more serious program cuts are on the way.

For their part, lawmakers have generally sounded unsympathetic, noting they’ve had to balance some tough budgets.  Of course, it was the General Assembly that failed to properly fund promised pensions in the past — so, they created the mess they now complain about.

That said, Governor Beshear has talked about both tax reform and expanded gaming as ways to generate revenue to mitigate the state’s budget woes.

Both Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu Silberman have been calling for a renewed commitment to proper funding of Kentucky’s schools.

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

Blankenship: Professional Pay Needed for Teachers

Over at Education Week, Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu Silberman interviewed Kentucky Education Association Executive Director Mary Ann Blankenship.

Among the highlights, Blankenship noted that teacher pay in Kentucky has remained essentially flat over the past 5 years, with some teachers actually seeing less take home pay now than they did then.

She also noted that funding cuts in recent years have meant teachers are spending more and more of their own money on school resources.

Like Silberman and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, Blankenship is challenging Kentucky policy makers to put schools first in the 2014 legislative session. Not only do teachers need professional pay, the schools where they teach need adequate resources.  With less state funding, those two essentials are becoming more and more difficult to provide.

Blankenship noted that Kentucky continues to make significant gains in education achievement and that teachers have been very responsive to a fast-changing education environment in light of the move to Common Core.

But, with all those challenges, the reality of lower pay and fewer resources will eventually take a toll.  Kentucky must act now to reverse that cycle — policy makers must ensure better, smarter pay and adequate resources for schools in order to ensure that progress is not slowed.

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

 

Core Defense

Gov. Steve Beshear and Commissioner Terry Holliday defend Kentucky’s participation in the Common Core in an op-ed in the Lane Report.

In the article, they note that Kentucky was the first state to teach and test using the Common Core State Standards. They also note that the stronger curriculum is yielding results in terms of increased graduation rates and a decreased need for remediation among high school graduates attending Kentucky colleges.

Kentucky’s leading role should be no surprise.  Since the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, Kentucky has taken the lead on using rigorous, relevant curriculum and holding students to high standards.  The higher expectations combined with increased investment in schools helped Kentucky become one of the fastest-improving states on the NAEP.

The lesson of 20 years of progress is that successful reform requires meaningful investment.  Or, as Stu Silberman put it, Reform Without Funding is Dead.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow us @KyEdReport

Kentucky’s Investment in Schools Drops at Wrong Time

Well, it’s never really the right time to decrease your investment in schools, but Kentucky has seen its investment in schools decrease at a time when the economy is in greatest need of improvements in education.

That’s the conclusion drawn by the Kentucky Center on Economic Policy in this study.

As Commissioner Holliday and Stu Silberman have argued, the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly is a critical one for Kentucky schools.

With a decrease in per pupil spending of nearly $500 since 2008, Kentucky can ill afford NOT to invest additional dollars in schools this session.

It’s an election year, so maybe that will motivate lawmakers to do the right thing and start getting education dollars moving in the right direction again.

Yes, revenue and budget priorities are tricky issues — but nothing is more important than keeping Kentucky’s schools moving forward.

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

Commissioner Holliday Calls for Investment in Education

Following a recent post by Stu Silberman from the Prichard Committee, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday blogged about the need for new investment in Kentucky schools.

Whether it is through expanded gaming, tax reform, or a combination of both, Holliday makes the point that Kentucky schools can’t keep moving forward and producing sound results without a commitment to more revenue.

Specifically, he notes:

As commissioner I am using this blog to announce my strong support for state legislators to address two possible funding sources during the 2014 session. I strongly support efforts at tax reform and also strongly support expanded gaming. These are not popular issues and they are extremely difficult to deal with during an election year, however, my job is to alert decision makers that without adequate funding, Kentucky educators will not be able to maintain current levels of student performance and certainly will not be able to continue improving student performance.

This is pretty important.  As Silberman’s piece noted, Kentucky has made tremendous gains over the past 20+ years and is well-positioned to keep making gains.  But absent additional investment, those gains will be stymied.

If Kentucky legislators are serious about education excellence, they’ll commit to doing the hard work of finding the funding. As I have noted from time to time over at Tennessee Education Report, Kentucky has made gains by a commitment to investment in schools.  And Kentucky’s kids achieve at higher rates than Tennessee’s — in no small part, I contend, due to Kentucky’s higher investment per student than Tennessee.  But if that commitment wanes, Kentucky’s gains may well stop.

And of course, although Kentucky has made gains in the past 20 years, there remains much work to do to ensure every child in the Commonwealth has access to an excellent education.

For more on Kentucky education policy, follow us @KyEdReport

 

Reform Without Funding is Dead

Or, that’s the claim essentially made by Stu Silberman here.

Silberman points out that as states like Kentucky continue to push forward on education reform, this time, they’re doing it without the commitment to funding that allowed Kentucky to be successful in the 1990s.

Specifically, he notes:

Funding cuts at the federal, state and local levels over the last several years
combined with the additional pressures and demands of high-level reform are
creating an environment for failure. Action to change this must come soon. Would
Kentucky have made the progress it has since 1990 without the supports for
teachers and students? The answer, clearly, is no. And unless we find a way to
support our teachers and kids this time around, we will see movement again – but
this time it will be in reverse.

Clearly, Silberman is not pleased with the trend of reform that says that we can improve schools without investing in them.  While it is true that simply spending more money won’t help, it is also true that targeted reforms without adequate financial support are doomed to fail.

Kentucky is a state that got education reform right in the 1990s and proceeded on a positive path into the 2000s.  Going backwards now should not be an option.

For more on education policy in Kentucky, follow us on Twitter @KyEdReport