October 2018
KSBA Interim Advocacy Newsletter
with Eric Kennedy, KSBA Governmental Relations Director
This month we will highlight three issues:
  • District financial reports due soon
  • Graduation requirement changes, your chance to comment
  • Election Day is almost here
District administrative expense reports due soon

The General Assembly put a new requirement in the current state budget for all districts to submit a report to the legislature detailing what your “administrative expenses” actually are and what you are doing to reduce them. We see this as a great opportunity to show what are truly administrative expenses at the central office level and in the schools. This affects our advocacy because we fight the same battle every few years about all the “wasteful bloat at central office” which, of course, is not the true or whole story.

If districts submit very detailed, informative reports, we can then use them to better address this issue with legislators. They will see that all of what is coded to a high-level “administrative” code in MUNIS is not at central office and is not wasteful, but often essential supports for learning and operations.

Please make sure your district finance officer understands how to complete this report, as it is due to the Legislative Research Commission by Dec. 1. The report uses a standard template within the MUNIS system, created by the Kentucky Department of Education, which is explained in this 20-minute webinar. Make sure to share the this with your finance officer. 

The webinar also discusses the new financial reporting provisions of the federal ESSA law, which will be a part of the newly redesigned School Report Card coming soon from KDE.
Graduation requirement changes, public comment period now open
At its last meeting, the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) approved a proposal for extensive changes to the state’s minimum graduation requirements, which are provided for in administrative regulation under KBE’s purview. KSBA and other groups including the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Kentucky Education Association, the Prichard Committee, Berea College, the state NAACP, the Urban Leagues of Lexington and Louisville and Teach for America had asked the KBE to delay the proposal to allow for more public review. 

When the discussion began several months ago under former Commissioner Stephen Pruitt, a series of town hall meetings had been planned across the state. After Pruitt resigned, these meetings were canceled. While the proposal is not yet final, a public comment period runs through November to be followed by a review from legislative committees, it would have been easier to make changes before the KBE vote.

We will continue to work with the education groups and our members to analyze the proposal. Most of our concerns, from the local board perspective, center on the fact that many districts will not be able to offer the called-for multiple course options tailored to student interests due to a lack of funding and personnel. For example, as we continue to expand dual credit offerings across the state, many districts find it extremely difficult to find qualified teachers for dual credit courses. It will be difficult or impossible for students who don’t have access to enough dual credit offerings to qualify as “transition ready” and receive a diploma.

The new, yet-to-be-created exit exam of “basic skills” is also a concern. With Senate Bill 1 (2017) we had hoped to move away from excessive high-stakes testing, which creates stress for students, parents and teachers, and costs districts and the state both time and money. A new exam moves us in the wrong direction and according to the Prichard Committee’s review of recent research, other states have moved away from this type of exam. The definition of “basic skills” and the scores needed to pass the exam are also areas for concern.

While some aspects of the proposal appear to offer students more flexibility, namely in course options, other aspects are very proscriptive. The requirement that students demonstrate that they are “transition ready” by one of only two ways, either being academic ready or career ready, is an extremely high bar that some students will not be able to meet. We all support high goals and standards for student achievement, but we also know the realities many of our students face and realities of state education funding, therefore, the goals and standards must be appropriate, reasonable and realistic in context with all other factors. 

Several members of the KBE and the commissioner have stated that they expect the dropout rate to increase, at least initially, under this plan. That is worth stopping all of us in our tracks to carefully consider the implications.

KDE has filed the regulation with the Legislative Research Commission, and the public comment/legislative review process is underway. On page 16 of the regulation, there are instructions, deadlines for comments and the date of the public hearing, along with an email address to submit comments. To grasp the importance of the requirement that students must “demonstrate academic readiness or career readiness” in order to graduate, you will need to reference those terms in the accountability regulation 703 KAR 5:270.

We ask you and your district assessment and instructional leaders to:
  1. Examine the proposal through a lens of real-world implementation; and
  2. Consider submitting written public comments on the regulation, either individually or collectively as a board, during the comment period which ends Nov. 30. 
Election Day

The election is upon us. While KSBA does not have a political action committee and does not endorse candidates for office at any level, it is critical to the success of our students and the viability of our districts that individuals supportive of public education are elected to every school board and to the state House and Senate. 

Please be sure to vote on Nov. 6 and to get your family, friends, neighbors, and every person you pass by to vote while keeping the children of our public schools in mind. If you don’t know where to vote or want to see a sample ballots, go to GoVoteKY.org.
Kentucky School Boards Association | 502-695-4630 | www.ksba.org