Ky. school chief's legislative wish list includes more district accountability, technology and dollars

01/13/2014 06:04 PM

In addition to seeking $336 million in additional state dollars over the next two years, Kentucky’s education commissioner wants new requirements for school district financial officers and school board members.

Terry Holliday who is in his fifth year as education commissioner, told Pure Politics that school districts do need additional accountability in addition to more dollars. And he wants lawmakers to address both in this 60-day legislative session that began last week.

Among the ideas is a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville, that would require additional training for school district chief financial officers. (That bill, HB 154 , is scheduled to be taken up in the House Education Committee on Tuesday.) Holliday said he wants to go beyond that and require that any district CFO be a certified public accountant. In addition, he said he wants to see school board members have to take tests to be eligible to run (see the beginning of the second interview segment below).

Holliday also explained in greater detail why he has estimated 2,000 of Kentucky’s more than 40,000 teachers could be laid off without an increase in state funding. (0:30 – 2:00)

Holliday responded to criticism by some, including Republican Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer. Thayer told Pure Politics he was “offended” by Holliday’s comments, which he believes was aimed at “frightening teachers.”

“My job is to stand up for children and teachers and our local school districts,” he said. “The local superintendents, I met with them in September, and they demanded that I stand up for education.” (3:30)

Watch the interview to hear which districts Holliday believes will be hit hardest if the next biennial budget doesn’t increase education spending:

One area of funding schools have had to go without for five years is state money for new textbooks. The age of books in many districts in the state is causing many education experts, including Holliday, to push for the use of mobile devices such as tablets in the classroom.

“People need to think about text books not in the traditional way, they need to think about textbooks as being digital resources,” Holliday said (at 2:45). “I think mobile devices and bring your own device are critical strategies for the future. A $120 textbook is outdated the day the kids get it. But if you spend $30 a year for a license to update your textbook almost weekly, then that’s a much better purchase.”

Holliday said he does believe extra money will come to help education in the budget crafted during this 2014 session. While Holliday knows that the legislature faces many funding increases from multiple agencies, he said he believes K-12 education will be a priority.

“The governor has been clear that even if he has to cut from other agencies, which I just hate that that might happen because it is robbing Peter to pay Paul, that he is committed to restoring some funding,” Holliday said (at 5:00). “I hope part of this is our teachers need a pay raise and any money that does come we certainly need some accountability for outcomes.”

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