Skip to Main Content

Education Policy Issues

Education Policy Issues

Renee Shaw and guests discuss education. Guests: Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association; Richard Innes, education analyst for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; and Steven Gordon, associate fellow of the Pegasus Institute.
S25 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere: 8.13.18

Kentucky Education Policy

With so much attention focused on public employee and teacher pensions, there wasn’t much room during this year’s legislative session for debate about other important education issues like school choice, academic standards, and high school graduation requirements.

KET’s Kentucky Tonight convened a panel of education advocates and policy analysts to discuss those topics as well as the ongoing debate over school funding. The guests were Steven Gordon, associate fellow at the Pegasus Institute; Richard Innes, education analyst for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; and Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association.

 

School Funding
Lawmakers did provide a slight boost in state funding to public schools to about $4,000 per pupil in the new budget biennium. That’s an all-time high for the state, but education spending in general in the commonwealth continues to lag behind the national average.

“We don’t think it’s adequate and what we see is a gap in equitable funding across the state,” says the Prichard Committee’s Brigitte Blom Ramsey. “That gap is approaching the levels that we saw in the late 1980s when the [state] Supreme Court ruled that Kentucky’s funding for education was unconstitutional.”

Ramsey says Kentucky students have made significant gains since implementation of the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, moving from near the bottom of many national academic rankings among states to spots more in the middle. She contends that’s a significant achievement given the poverty and other challenges children in the state face.

But a new report from the Pegasus Institute suggests those gains may not be as great as they should be, given the extra money funneled to schools as a result of KERA. Lexington economist Steven Gordon, who co-authored that report, says between 1990 and 2015, public school funding in Kentucky increased 41 percent, but math scores only increased 8 to 11 percent for students in grades 4 and 8. Reading scores increased only 1 to 5 percent for those grades.

“The bottom line is that pumping more money into the current system the way it is now is just not the answer to the problems that we have today,” says Gordon. “Something needs to be done, and the answer is not to increase the aggregate total level of spending. If you want to increase spending in one area, that’s fine, but we need to cut it in another area.”

Ramsey agrees with Gordon that new investments should be targeted. She suggests a focus on early childhood education as well as college and career readiness for older students.

The problem is finding the money to pay for those programs as well as other state obligations, including the massive public pension debts.

“The commonwealth is starting to run up against some realities about how much more taxing can we really do with the population before we start to damage the economy overall,” says Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions. “Where do we find the revenue? We need to start talking about efficiency.”

The KEA’s Stephanie Winkler argues the issue isn’t costs but revenues. She says the state offers about $13 billion in tax credits, but only collects about $11 billion in tax revenues. Lawmakers did overhaul the state tax system earlier this year by lowering individual and corporate tax rates and adding the sales tax to more services, but left tax exemptions largely untouched.

“We have to get to the root of the problem, and the root of the problem is not teachers, it’s not principals, it’s not superintendents, and it’s not poverty,” says Winkler. “It is the way we deal with our income and revenue and expenses, and we have to get our house in order.”

Helping Teachers Do Their Jobs
Public education advocates are also concerned about teacher turnover and compensation. Ramsey says the Prichard Committee supports placing high performing teachers in low performing schools where they can do the most good, and providing them a pay incentive to work in those locations. She says more attention also needs to be given to attracting a wider range of people into the education profession so that the teaching force is as diverse as the student population.

Instead of paying teachers based on their years of experience and academic credentials, Gordon suggests adding merit-based factors to compensation schedules. He says corporations and non-profit organizations evaluate employee performance, and school districts could do the same with teachers.

One example of teachers getting a pay boost for student performance is the AdvanceKentucky program. Innes says it trains teachers to do advanced placement course instruction, and then pays them a $100 stipend for every student who scores well in those classes.

Ramsey says such programs require professional development funding, which she says has been sorely lacking in recent years. Then there’s also a question about the appropriate content for those programs.

“I think the reason, in part, that we’re having trouble with professional development as it’s been done up to now is they’re not really teaching the right stuff,” says Innes. “I don’t think we have as good a handle as we need to get on exactly what really does work in the classroom.”

Because all students learn in different ways and at different paces, Winkler says it’s hard to create a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development. She says another problem is that funding for the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program has also been eliminated. KTIP helps new teachers during their first year in the classroom

“It’s not for the faint of heart: teaching is a very difficult job and it weighs on you 24-7,” says Winkler. “You’ve got to remember that you’re there for those kids and for some kids, you’re the only person they’ve got.”

Winkler says she’s also worried about political influence over the Kentucky Department of Education. Earlier this year, Gov. Matt Bevin used his executive authority to overhaul the membership and duties of several state education boards. The governor also abolished the independent Education Professional Standards Board and moved its duties to the to the state education department. Winkler contends these moves could lead to decisions that undermine public education in the commonwealth.

Charter Schools
“If there’s one way to take politics out of public education it’s by giving students and their parents the freedom to choose,” says Gordon. “Introducing choice and introducing competition into education is exactly the direction we need to be going.”

The 2017 General Assembly passed enabling legislation to allow the formation of charter schools in the commonwealth, but lawmakers have yet to appropriate any funding for charter operations. Gordon says competition from charter schools is good because it will pressure low-performing traditional schools and teachers to do a better job.

Ramsey says Kentucky’s charter school law is one of the better ones in the nation because it was developed using best practices gleaned from other states. But she cautions that charter schools haven’t been universally successful. One area where they have proven helpful, she says, is with African American students from impoverished families living in inner cities.

“We’re dealing with urban strategies when we talk about charter schools, when we talk about talk about choice,” Ramsey says. “So we need to ask the question: in Kentucky, what does rural education reform look like?”

Even in cities, charter schools shouldn’t function as the competition, according to Ramsey. She says urban centers do best when the charter schools work in collaboration with the local traditional public schools.

Graduation Requirements and Academic Standards
The state board of education is developing new high school graduation requirements for Kentucky students. Under the proposal, graduates would have to complete a minimum of 22 credits in English, math, science, social studies, and other areas. They will also have to be proficient at math and reading skills, pass a civics exam, complete financial literacy instruction, and other requirements.

Ramsey says she’s glad state officials are reviewing the requirements. She says higher standards are needed to prepare young people to enter today’s workforce.

“A generation-plus ago, the high school diploma was sufficient for someone to go out and get a family-sustaining job. That’s no longer the case,” says Ramsey. “So we have to ensure that all of our students are graduating with a meaningful high school diploma.”

Kentucky’s official graduation rates are about 90 percent, but Innes says that’s misleading. He says the “effective graduation rate,” which the Bluegrass Institute touts as a more accurate measure of students being prepared to enter college or the workforce, is actually closer to 64 percent for white pupils and 32 percent for blacks.

“We’re disproportionately giving a lot more of our kids of color a diploma with a lot less education than we’re demanding from our white students, and we can’t live with that,” Innes says. “We have to do this better for our minority kids and I think we can do it.”

The state is also implementing new academic standards that are meant to replace the Common Core Standards, which were unpopular among some lawmakers and interest groups.

Ramsey says educators and administrators are reviewing the language arts and math standards now. She says the new criteria must be rigorous and relevant for what students need to know and enable teachers to deliver deep learning in the classroom.

Innes says he’s yet to see much difference between the old Common Core and the new proposed state standards. He contends one problem with both sets of criteria is that they only say what students should know and be able to do, but they don’t say how well children should be able to perform those tasks.

Program Details

Kentucky Tonight

About Kentucky Tonight

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is an hour-long, weekly public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday evenings. Discussions focus on issues confronting Kentuckians.

TV Schedules

Jump to Recent Airdates

Upcoming

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday December 6, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday December 6, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday December 7, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 7, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 7, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 7, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 7, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 7, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 8, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 8, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 8, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 8, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 8, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 8, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday December 13, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday December 13, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday December 14, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 14, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 14, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 14, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 14, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 14, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 15, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 15, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 15, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 15, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 15, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 15, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
Jump to Upcoming Airdates

Recent

Compensating College Athletes: Name, Image and Likeness

  • Wednesday November 24, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 24, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 24, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 24, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 24, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 24, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 23, 2021 11:01 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 23, 2021 10:01 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 23, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 23, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday November 22, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday November 22, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET

State and National Politics

  • Wednesday November 17, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 17, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 17, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 17, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday November 15, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday November 15, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET

Abortion Rights and Restrictions

  • Wednesday November 10, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 10, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 10, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 10, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 10, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 10, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 9, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 9, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 9, 2021 2:35 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 9, 2021 1:35 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 9, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 9, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday November 8, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday November 8, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET

Kentucky's Social Services System

  • Wednesday November 3, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 3, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 3, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 3, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 3, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 3, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday November 1, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday November 1, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
Top

Season 25 Episodes

6th Congressional District Candidates

S25 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.29.18

3rd, 4th and 5th Congressional District Candidates

S25 E35 Length 54:03 Premiere Date 10.22.18

1st & 2nd District Candidates; H.S. Graduation Requirements

S25 E34 Length 58:38 Premiere Date 10.15.18

Midterm Elections

S25 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.1.18

Work and Wages

S25 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9.24.18

Energy and the Environment

S25 E31 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 9.17.18

Sports Betting

S25 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9.10.18

Election Laws and Protecting Voting Rights

S25 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8.27.18

School Safety

S25 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8.20.18

Education Policy Issues

S25 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8.13.18

Kentucky's Medicaid Waiver

S25 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 7.25.18

Immigration Issues

S25 E22 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 7.16.18

Debating Gun Laws

S25 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6.25.18

Economy and Trade

S25 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6.11.18

Discussing the Primary Election

S25 E18 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 5.21.18

6th District Democratic Congressional Primary Candidates

S25 E17 Length 56:38 Premiere Date 5.14.18

4th District Dem. Cong. Candidates and a Legislature Wrap-up

S25 E16 Length 59:04 Premiere Date 4.16.18

5th Congressional District Primary Candidates

S25 E15 Length 49:05 Premiere Date 4.9.18

Finding Compromise in the State Budget

S25 E13 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3.26.18

The Budget and Public Pensions

S25 E12 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 3.19.18

Public Pension Reform

S25 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 2.26.18

Violent Crime

S25 E10 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2.19.18

Medical Marijuana

S25 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2.12.18

Advocates Discuss Education Issues

S25 E8 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 2.5.18

Education Priorities in the General Assembly

S25 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1.29.18

The 2018 General Assembly and the proposed stage budget from

S25 E6 Length 50:49 Premiere Date 1.22.18

Legislative Priorities for the General Assembly

S25 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1.9.18

Health Issues

S25 E4 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12.18.17

National and State Politics

S25 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12.11.17

Federal Tax Reform

S25 E2 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12.4.17

Policy Debate Over Pensions

S25 E1 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11.6.17

About

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is a public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday nights at 8/7c on KET and KET.org/live.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form on this page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonightwas awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

To purchase a DVD:

Call 1-800-945-9167 or e-mail shop@ket.org.

Contact

Explore KET