If Kentuckians are going to overcome the challenges of the 21st century and realize the standard of living they desire, the commonwealth's leaders must realize that investment in the state's public educational system is the only way to be successful.
That was the message Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Jon Draud delivered as he spoke to about 300 Murray State University officials, students and visitors during the 24th annual Harry M. Sparks Lecture series at Alexander Hall Monday afternoon.
Draud, a former school teacher, coach, principal and superintendent, became the state's fourth education commissioner in December. He said the state's primary and secondary education system is facing some daunting challenges in both short and long-term academic progress that must be overcome by greater funding investment.“
Only 12 percent of our high schools, 21 percent of our middle schools and 54 percent of our elementary schools are on target to reach academic proficiency by 2014,” he said. “Education is our number one issue.
It is important that people understand that if we don't invest in education in Kentucky - and it is an investment - we will never have the standard of living that we want. The only way it's going to happen, the only way, is through education.”
Calling the Kentucky Department of Education's $4.2 billion budget for 2008-09 “inadequate,” Draud said the General Assembly's failure to provide for new revenue sources during the past biennial session will force the system to struggle.
About $500 million in tax revenues from expanded gambling and another $200 million from higher taxes on cigarettes was proposed.
“It was definitely a step backwards,” he said, pointing out the possibility of the loss of teachers and support staff, academic programs and academic progress from lack of funding. “It's devastating.”
During much of the speech, Draud outlined some of the department's success during the past six month, as well as long and short term goals to keep the state's schools on target for success. One of the primary goals is emphasizing the importance of education to lawmakers and the public.
“We must create a sense of urgency. Academic proficiency is looking at us in 2014 and a lot of schools have a long way to go,” he said. “Money is very important and we don't have enough of it in public education.”
Draud pointed to the possibility of the loss of education personnel in the next two years caused by the loss of $170 million in funding for 2008-09 and additional $190 million in 2009-10.
Other goals include addressing efficiency and productivity in reaching academic proficiency with an apparent emphasis in technology. He also emphasized the need for intervention strategies to aid struggling students and schools by studying schools that seem to be overcoming the odds and using those strategies elsewhere...
Photo by Tom Berry/Ledger & Times