A "critical moment" in state's education future, House K-12 budget subcommittee chair says

07/02/2015 06:20 PM

Six months before lawmakers return to Frankfort to construct and pass a $20 billion state spending plan, Rep. Kelly Flood is preparing to help craft one of the largest portions of the budget — education spending.

Flood, chair of the House K-12 budget subcommittee, told Pure Politics that she has been reviewing a report detailing the best practices to prepare for the challenges for Kentucky’s students.

One of the largest hurdles for the state education-wise, Flood says, is addressing achievement gaps.

“Every superintendent in the state, I know, cares about achievement gaps,” said Flood, D-Lexington. “If we leave them entrenched they become opportunity gaps.

“Whether we have new funding or not, we can take the money we have currently and incentivize practices we know help close the gap.”

In November, Kentuckians will go to the polls and decide who will lead the state as the next governor.

Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway and Republican Matt Bevin are facing off in the general election, with independent candidate Drew Curtis close to compiling the 5,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

During the campaign, Conway has made numerous calls for early childhood education funding as part of his candidacy, and he promises a roll-out of the details of that plan later this summer.

Flood called the 2015 gubernatorial election a “critical moment for us,” as the first thing the next governor will have to do is present a state spending plan.

“Anyone who is paying attention to the governor’s race will know that the Conway campaign is clear that pre-K through education, especially pre-K is the place to be investing our dollars,” Flood said. “I know that is in direct opposition to the argument that the other camp would make.”

During the GOP primary, Bevin said that he would not expand early childhood education programs like Head Start if elected.

Flood and others in the state point to studies that show the early childhood education programs have an effect on closing achievement gaps and preventing students from starting off behind in school.

“When we invest any dollar in pre-k through 12, the return is threefold, and especially for the child’s well being for the entire school experience they have,” Flood said.

In Kentucky, Flood said there are 110,000 3- and 4-year-olds, 33,000 of whom already receive some kind of assistance either through Head Start or federal or state dollars.

“That leaves about 80,000 kids that still need attention to get them into school early. That’s where we should be spending every one of our new dollars,” she said.

Lawmakers approved a budget in 2014 to direct more state dollars to teachers who had taken “minimal raises” during the aftermath of the 2008 economic downturn. Flood said she recognized the pay boosts were tough for some school districts.

The raises mandated in the budget were an attempt to acknowledge those struggles, Flood said. Now what teachers need is more professional development the education budget committee chair said during the interview.

“We are demanding more of teachers with good reason,” Flood said. “… Now we need to make sure teachers have the resources to adequately teach in the classroom.”

Last budget session, Flood said there were tens of millions of dollars for professional development, “but now what we’re going to do is come back and pay attention to where, and what kinds of programming are there.”

“I’m not sure we have to crank it up so much in teacher in professional development goes up, we have to make sure the quality of programming goes up,” Flood said.

Watch the interview below to hear Flood’s thoughts on Common Core standards and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday’s retirement.


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