On a few occasions, Terry Holliday has shown a willingness to up the rhetorical ante on teachers, local school district officials, and now, state legislators. Today he warns of a possible teacher revolt if budgetary conditions don't improve coming out of the January legislative session.
You'd have to go back to 1970 to find the last revolt - a KEA-led state-wide teacher's strike accompanied by many more smaller-scale work stoppages around the state. KSN&C spoke to Mary Ruble KEA's Assistant Executive Director for Programs who confirmed that today's teachers are "significantly stressed by their circumstances." But for now the message coming out of the KEA is one of support for the Commissioner's push for legislators to return Kentucky schools funding to 2008 levels. KEA is a member of the Kentucky Education Action Team and "funding is our unified message," Ruble said.
creates conditions “perfect for rebellion”
This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Tuesday that teacher frustrations over no pay raises, greater personal costs for students’ needs and tougher demands for classroom progress are a "perfect mix for rebellion” if Congress and the General Assembly don't act soon.
Ky Ed Commissioner Terry Holliday
Continuing his “perfect storm” campaign to educate leaders and the public about the fiscal challenges facing public schools, Holliday expanded on his concerns during a wide-ranging, live webcast interview with the editorial board of the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“If you talk to teachers today, they’ve done remarkable work in the last three years. We’ve had the highest graduation rate ever for the state. High college and readiness rates. New standards,” the commissioner said. “But our teachers have reached a tipping point. No pay raises in five years (in many districts). Spending on average $1,000 more out of their own pocketbooks to help their kids. More expectations on them. And the state is decreasing funding. It’s the perfect mix for rebellion.”
Holliday, a former teacher and superintendent in North Carolina, pointed to educator outrage in that state when tenure laws were changed and teacher pay in other states passed that in his former home. Teachers staged “walk-ins” where, instead of walkouts, they brought parents in to see firsthand the negative impact on classroom instruction.
“I don’t want to lose our most important resource – our teachers – because our pay doesn’t keep up and we have put so many expectations on them. They don’t feel appreciated,” he said.
Holliday repeated his recent message at meetings of the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents about his prediction of a “perfect storm” for schools in 2014 due to reduced federal funds under the Congressional sequestration cuts, assessments to cover the KSBIT shortfall and the potential for more cuts in state funding. But he added that it doesn’t have to happen.
“My most outlandish hope is that Congress would do something on the (federal) budget,” he said. “Sequestration is a 9 percent cut of federal funding to this state, and that could be 1,300 teachers.”
If the General Assembly is unable to restore major K-12 state-supported programs to 2008 levels, “my estimates are that between 1,000 to 2,000 teachers will lose their positions next April,” Holliday said. April is when school boards must notify certified personnel if they have a position for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Other issues Holliday addressed during the hour-long interview include:
Asked whether he agreed with author, historian and former U.S. Assistant Education Secretary Diane Ravitch that too much time and attention is spent on standardized testing in America’s schools, Holliday agreed. But he added that some of that burden is created at the local level.
“I think this nation has a fixation on standardized testing. I don’t think standardized testing is going to get at the creativity and problem solving of children,” the commissioner said. “We rank our football teams, we rank our basketball teams, we rank everything so we want to rank our schools. It’s just common nature in the U.S. to rank schools.”
While Holliday said there needs to be periodic “external validation that kids have learned what they are supposed to learn,” it doesn’t have to be annually or as often as testing takes place in some districts.
“I think where we have an overfixation on standardized testing is in the tests that a lot of our local school districts give. That’s where most of the testing is, not at the state level. We have districts that I understand as many as 30-40 days a year are taken up by some kind of local testing,” he said.
In response to another question, Holliday said he felt the same about charter schools for Kentucky – one of fewer than 10 states that don’t have the option – as he did five years ago when he became commissioner.
“I’m OK with charters as long as we can get more parent engagement and student engagement and the local school board is the chartering agent. As long as they come before the local school board and it says, ‘We want to improve performance and parent engagement and student engagement,’ if that’s what the charter legislation is, I’m in favor of it,” he said.
“I’m fine with charters but I don’t know if we need them in Kentucky. With the Districts of Innovation bill, we’re still too early to see if it will impact them. Right now it’s only impacting four districts. We need more innovation in parent engagement and student engagement,” Holliday said.
“I’m fine with both. They are two tools. I don’t see them as one or the other. I think the Districts of Innovation will keep growing, but it’s not growing fast enough. We’re not gaining enough innovation. We’re definitely gaining innovation here in Jefferson County but not enough across the state. I don’t know if charter schools can enhance that. In some places they have, in other places, they haven’t,” he said.
The hour-long interview is archived on the Courier-Journal website and may be viewed here http://www.courier-journal.com/section/videonetwork).