Wednesday, January 4, 2012

KEAT: From the 80's Playbook

The Seven Member
Kentucky Education Action Team
Decries Inadequate School Funding

"The public hears a lot of talk
about education having been 'protected'
from cuts in recent years,
but that's only true on a relative level
to the cuts in funding to other public services.
School funding has not gone untouched,
and the public needs to understand that.

--Bill Scott, Ex Dir KSBA

Recently, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu Silberman began a little sabre-rattling over the state budget and the legislature's apparent contentment to underfund the schools. Previously, we've heard from Council for Better Education President Tom Shelton. When I first heard the comment that it was time to "draw a line in the sand," I wondered how serious these educational leaders really were.

A list of organizations resembling the Education Coalition of the 1980's, combined forces today to call on the legislature and governor to do better for Kentucky's children and teachers, Conspicuously absent was the Council for Better Education - the only organization to date with the moxie to actually sue the legislature for ignoring their constitutional duty. Twice. If there's any real "insisting" to be done, it will be done by the Council.

How much better, if the Council were to be encouraged by rough draft amicus briefs (and a good deal of grass roots networking) from the seven groups who popped off today.

I realize that Council for Better Education members are likely also KASS members, but still, if there's sabre-rattling to be done, it helps if the legislature actually believes there's a real threat of political action. ...and any lack of resolve will leave today's announcement as a footnote in history. KEAT's mission is only to "persuade the Kentucky General Assembly, parents and the public." Is this Phase One? Is there more to come?

Jim Warren's lead in the Herald-Leader:
A new education coalition said Wednesday that state support for Kentucky public schools has fallen over the past four years despite perceptions to the contrary, urging Gov. Steve Beshear and the 2012 General Assembly to reverse the trend with more money.

Calling itself KEAT (Kentucky Education Action Team), the new group contended that inflation, combined with state funding that has remained flat or been cut in some areas, has led to declines in seven key programs, including the basic SEEK funding that supports school operations.

"Our purpose is to let our legislators ... and the citizens of Kentucky know the realities of what has happened to funding in our schools over the last four-year period. There has been a trend ... of reduction after reduction after reduction," said Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and a spokesman for KEAT. The reductions are risky because they have come as Kentucky schools are preparing for new content standards, a new accountability system and a new statewide test, KEAT members said during a news conference in the state Capitol rotunda.

Stu got all that exactly right. The legislature's Senate Bill 1 needs teacher support or it's not going to work.

But absent real tax reform - a can the legislature has been kicking down the street long now? - it's hard to see how this effort works out.

Status quo + promises = 0

It was the legislature's underfunding of the schools during the 1981 session that got 60 of the state's school superintendents mad enough to put their names and their jobs on the line, and stand up. The 1985 session settled the issue. But the legal circumstances are better now. Since the Rose decision, education is a fundamental right. Prichard has built an impressive citizen's network, and the KEA is still the KEA - when they wanna be...(Remember Ernie?)  

Since 2007, the "education establishment" as represented by the Action Team members has been "playing nicely together" - even to the point that the KEA has been willing to go along with teacher evaluations based, in part, on test scores, in order to secure federal funding.

While the Prichard Committee has consistently pointed out the differences between the governor's rhetoric, and the actual funding losses schools were suffering, the general attitude has seemed conciliatory, and vaguely hopeful.

What should one make of the fact that the gubernatorial election just ended? Is it safe for the collective patience to have now worn thin?

Silberman said, in the KEAT press release
“Having all of these organizations come together like this is a historic time for Kentucky. We believe that education is the bridge to a better life for all Kentuckians. The progress that has been made over the last 20 years is in danger of regression due to the reductions in funding.”

While I certainly agree with the fact that Kentucky's educational progress is truly threatened by inadequate funding, it remains to be seen whether this is an historic event. So far, it's only a press conference.

This from the AP/Herald-Leader:
The state's leading education advocacy groups joined forces Wednesday to call on Gov. Steve Beshear and lawmakers to increase funding to public schools.

The Kentucky Education Action Team, a coalition of advocacy groups, complained in a Capitol press conference that public schools have taken financial hits in the economic recession that has caused about $1 billion in shortfalls over the past four years...
The Action Team includes:
  • Kentucky Association of School Administrators
  • Kentucky Association of School Councils
  • Kentucky Association of School Superintendents
  • Kentucky Education Association
  • Kentucky Parent Teacher Association, and
  • Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
  • Kentucky Parent Teacher Association

The group is demanding:
  • restoration of SEEK funding
  • restoration of textbook funds
  • fully funded preschool programs
  • fully-funded teacher training
  • family resource centers
  • youth services centers
  • after school programs and
  • school safety programs
"Leaders of the coalition said SEEK funding has declined from $4,230 per student in 2008 to $3,769 per student this year. And, they said, state funding for textbooks has dried up entirely.

Sharron Oxendine, president of the 42,000-member Kentucky Education Association, said lawmakers need to know the funding cuts have negative effects in classrooms. As the state's largest teachers' organization, Oxendine said members see those impacts every day...

KEAT Press Release from KSBA:
K-12 groups begin campaign for school funding,
call for restoration of cuts over past four years

For the first time, seven organizations representing the full spectrum of elementary and secondary education in Kentucky have banded together to urge Gov. Steve Beshear and the General Assembly to reverse four years of state funding reductions to key services that support teaching and learning in the state’s public schools.

During a Frankfort news conference today, representatives of the Kentucky Education Action Team (KEAT) called on state leaders to restore funding to the SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) program, the primary source of state funding for public schools; and to key elements such as textbooks, preschool, teacher training and family resource and youth services centers, along with afterschool and school safety programs.

“At a time when schools are being expected to significantly boost student achievement, budgeting equals tools that can help teachers and schools succeed for students,” said Tim Hitzfield, president of the Kentucky Association of School Councils and principal of Conner High School in Boone County. “Training, materials, technology and extra time for students are all key investments for kids to succeed instead of just getting by.”

KEAT’s efforts represent the first statewide joint advocacy campaign by the seven founding members: Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Association of School Councils, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Parent Teacher Association, Kentucky School Boards Association and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu Silberman said, “Having all of these organizations come together like this is a historic time for Kentucky. We believe that education is the bridge to a better life for all Kentuckians. The progress that has been made over the last 20 years is in danger of regression due to the reductions in funding.”

Jessamine County Schools Superintendent Lu Young, a member of the board of directors of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, said her members are “excited about the collaboration. This is perhaps the first partnership that focuses entirely on funding issues that impact our children.”

During the Jan. 4 news conference, KEAT released data demonstrating the reductions in state funding to key K-12 programs since 2008, including:

FY 2007-08 FY 2011-12
SEEK $4,230 per student $3,769
Preschool $4,092 $3,191
FRYSCs $103 $87
Afterschool $59 $20
Training $25 $4
Safe schools $17 $6
Textbooks $40 $0 (for the past two years)

“The public hears a lot of talk about education having been ‘protected’ from cuts in recent years, but that’s only true on a relative level to the cuts in funding to other public services,” said Bill Scott, executive director of the Kentucky School Boards Association. “School funding has not gone untouched, and the public needs to understand that.”

Representatives of classroom teachers and district administrators called on state leaders to end the slow eroding of resources that they see affecting student learning.

Sharron K. Oxendine, president of the Kentucky Education Association, a group with 42,000 active, student and retired teachers, said, "KEA members see the impact of reduced funding on their students’ lives and on their own economic welfare every day in our classrooms. KEA believes the united effort to inform lawmakers about the impact of funding cuts is important.”

“Our call to action is necessary and urgent,” said Mayfield Independent Schools Superintendent Lonnie Burgett, president of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. “Kentucky’s educators are poised to lead our schools in this global society, and our children are engaged and ready to learn. Funding must be restored to meet the higher standards for learning as set forth by the General Assembly in Senate Bill 1 in 2009.”

Kentucky Parent Teacher Association President Teri Gale of Fairdale pledged her organization’s No. 1 focus to “advocate that Kentucky must fully fund all programs it mandates to local school districts.

“Our members believe all parents should be involved both in the home and in the classroom in the education of their children,” she said, “so we support the position that the Kentucky General Assembly acts to restore funding levels for education to 2008 levels.”

KEAT Website:

Mission Statement:
The Kentucky Education Action Team is an action advocacy group whose mission is to develop united messages that will persuade the Kentucky General Assembly, parents and the public to provide and sustain sufficient resources that will advance and support learning for all P-12 public school students to reach their potential for career and college readiness.

KEAT partners believe that:

•The Commonwealth of Kentucky has a moral and ethical obligation to assure that each student is given every opportunity to reach his/her full potential.

•Kentucky’s public schools are a great investment.

•Adequate and sustainable funding of public schools is the constitutional obligation of the legislature.

•Other sources of revenue should be explored quickly if adequate funding for education is not available.

•The General Assembly and Kentucky citizens expect more of our schools than ever before.

•Because Kentucky has among the highest proportion of students living in poverty compared to all other states, more support is needed to ensure that these students succeed in school and in life.

•The needs of our students, schools and state are urgent. The time to act is now.

To support our beliefs, we believe that:

✦ Shared leadership builds capacity for improved student learning
✦ Collaboration creates energy that inspires others
✦ Collaboration is needed among all supporters of public schools for the good of our students and democracy

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