Ed commissioner to lobby for new science standards in 2014 legislature,
but wants focus on funding
This from the KSBA eNews Service:
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said restoring K-12 funding sources to levels before cuts tied to the national recession is his top priority for the 2014 General Assembly, adding that there are revenue options available to legislators, so “they can’t say there is no new money.”
Appearing on the Lexington WKYT-TV Sunday interview program, Kentucky Newsmakers, Holliday also defended the proposed new science standards that were recently rejected by a legislative panel, saying to start over would cost the state’s taxpayers millions and waste the time of classroom teachers.
He also acknowledged challenges being voiced by Kentucky principals over the new teacher evaluation system, but said teachers deserve a process that gives them feedback to improve their skills.
Asked by WKYT Managing Editor Bill Bryant about lobbying the 2014 legislature for more funds, Holliday said failure to do so would make it impossible for schools to continue to produce gains such as the improved high school graduation and college and career readiness data announced last week.
“We’re probably going to need about $140 million – a very doable number,” the commissioner said. “Our legislators can’t say there’s no new money. The lieutenant governor’s tax reform commission talked about a sales tax on services and on utilities. There’s a lot of support for putting the option of expanded gaming on the ballot with a potential of a half billion dollars in revenues.
“I’m working with all of the education groups across Kentucky on a very simple, clear message: Restore education funding to prerecession levels of 2008-09,” Holliday said. “I’ve blogged about it, tweeted about it, spoken about it. There won’t be any other issues we’ll be talking about.”
One other education issue that will be headed for the 2014 legislative session will be the proposed addition of new science standards to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, the state’s version of the national Common Core standards that have sparked debates pro and con in Washington, D.C., and a growing number of state capitols. Holliday says dozens of educators, business people and others across Kentucky spent two-and-a-half years working on the standards – an effort he said shouldn’t be wasted.
“We were basically doing what the General Assembly asked us to do (in passage of Senate Bill 1, the 2009 testing system rewrite),” he said. “Every time we’ve done the science standards dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, we’ve had this debate about evolution. Now climate change is a new issue that was sticking point for the committee. When you get to the bottom line, it’s a political issue.
“Certainly a student’s freedom of speech doesn’t stop at schoolhouse door. Students can voice their concerns, and our science teachers have dealt with that for years,” the commissioner said in response to a question from Bryant about whether teachers have flexibility on evolution and creationism. “But for the state to allow or require teaching of creationism or intelligent design, the Supreme Court has ruled that would not be permissible.”
Holliday said he “absolutely” would be lobbying legislators not to pass any bills that would overturn Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive order implementing the science standards over the objections of a legislative review panel.
“Our teachers have worked too hard for the last two-and-a-half years. Now our teachers are working on the next phase of curriculum, instructional materials. Too much work has been done for us to move backward,” he said. “Just to develop new standards would be $3 million to $5 million dollars. What an enormous waste of money for Kentucky citizens. There’s not one science association, no teachers association against the science standards. It would be waste of effort, time and funds to go back.”
Quizzed about complaints from some principals about “confusion” and “concern” regarding the new state teacher evaluation system – PGES (Professional Growth and Effectiveness System) – Holliday acknowledged the process is proving time consuming for administrators. But he quickly affirmed that the new system is owed to classroom teachers.
“The expectations (under PGES) are much clearer than in our existing systems. Currently all 173 school systems have different evaluation systems. Teachers say they don’t get feedback and don’t know how to improve. We need principals to know what good instruction looks like,” Holliday said.
“It’s a time commitment. Principals are extremely busy. It involves between 30 and 50 hours to be up to speed. A lot of it is online they can do conveniently at home or at work,” he said. “(But) to ensure every child in Kentucky learns, we’ve got to have great teachers and great leaders who know what good instruction looks like.”
The full interview is available online here http://www.wkyt.com/news/kynewsmakers.