Keeping public money in public schools is one of five priorities of Kentucky school district superintendents, according to a report C.D. Morton presented Thursday during a meeting of the Harlan Independent Board of Education.
Morton, who is a member of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents board of directors, shared the association’s priorities for the upcoming General Assembly during the short special session.
“We want to protect public school dollars,” said Morton, the superintendent of the Harlan city school district. “With a new governor, who knows what will happen.”
Matt Bevin, the governor elect, has expressed his support in the past for creating a system of vouchers that would allow public money to be used to pay for private schools. Morton and other superintendents are concerned the loss of funding would hurt public schools, especially with school budgets across the state already stretched to the limit.
The Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System is also a concern for educators.
“The retirement system needs to be addressed,” Morton said. “There are a lot of options out there.”
The legislative priorities draft from KASS notes that “a sound pension system helps Kentucky recruit and retain quality teachers. Kentucky teachers are, in almost all cases, prohibited from participating in Social Security so KTRS benefits are their only economic safety net in retirement. Failure to provide adequate pensions to retired teachers will increase the rate of poverty among one of Kentucky’s most economically vulnerable populations, elderly women.”
Morton said the KASS also wants to increase preschool eligibility for at-risk students to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, instead of the current 160 percent.
Fully funding pupil transportation costs for school districts is also a priority.
“As student transportation costs have continued to increase, funding has not increased, causing school districts to use SEEK and local dollars to safely transport students to and from school,” according to the KASS draft. “Currently, the state only reimburses school districts for 59 percent of the cost of transportation.”
Morton said the state reimbursed districts at 95 percent when he first served as transportation director for the city schools in 1998.
Reforming educator due process, including tribunal/tenure language reform, is also suggested by the KASS.
“In our pursuit of every student being college and career ready which demands the very highest quality teachers in every classroom, KASS urges the General Assembly to make changes to the tribunal system that while granting due process, also becomes a fair and efficient process to effectively to separate teacher behavioral issues from performance issues,” according to the draft presented by Morton.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134.