I talk to a lot of business executives. Their top concern – especially when they’re making decisions about where to locate – almost always comes down to people: Will they be able to find enough highly skilled, educated and trained workers to make their business a success?
Kentuckians are an industrious people, there’s no doubt. But the simple fact is that our workforce, top to bottom, isn’t as strong as it needs to be. Not when you consider how rapidly sophisticated the marketplace is becoming.
Cognizant of that fact, over the past few years we’ve been laying the groundwork for a stronger workforce by revolutionizing our system of career and technical education to make it more accessible to students at an earlier age, more rigorous academically and better aligned with both postsecondary requirements and employer needs.
Today we took another significant step forward on that mission.
I signed an executive order eliminating Kentucky’s current system of career and tech ed – a disjointed, duplicative system that is split between local school districts and the state Department of Workforce Investment – and unifying it under the auspices of Kentucky’s Department of Education.
The executive order also establishes a CTE Advisory Committee to provide guidance as we create a more relevant and efficient system to educate and prepare students for the world of work in a real-life setting.
Today’s career and tech ed is a lot more vibrant and sophisticated than what used to be called “shop” – a handful of carpentry and mechanics classes designed for kids who didn’t plan on going to college.
In fact, last year some 75 percent of Kentucky high school students were enrolled in CTE programs offered at 323 middle and high schools, area technology centers and career and technical centers across the state.
As of next year, students will be able to choose from 16 career clusters, taking hands-on training in areas like agriscience, information technology, machine tool technology, health sciences, electrical technology and business administration.
In short, we’re creating a system of career and tech ed that is a first choice, not a last resort.
And in so doing we’re creating a workforce that companies can’t wait to come to Kentucky to hire.
Imagine two kindergartners.
One enters the classroom at the beginning of the year excited to be there … grounded in basic knowledge like the alphabet, colors and numbers … well-fed and healthy.
The other has health problems … didn’t get a good meal that morning … and has spent the first few years of his or her life baby-sat by a television, with a mind that has never been challenged.
Which child will have a successful first year of school?
The answer is obvious, and that’s why the main goal of my early childhood initiative is to make sure that all Kentucky children – regardless of where they live – enter kindergarten mentally, physically and emotionally ready to do kindergarten-level work.
To that end, today we took a significant step toward that goal with the formation by executive order of the Early Childhood Advisory Council.
The council was one of the recommendations in the final report of the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education last December.
Its purpose is to unite stakeholders – in both the public and private sectors -- behind common strategies, standards and goals for how we educate and care for children in Kentucky. It’s also to advocate for improved quality of early childhood services and improved school readiness.
Today I named the 26 members of the council and its leadership.
This is a diverse group of people who are smart, talented and experienced. I look forward to working with them and to seeing the results of that work.
The council’s first task is to help in Kentucky’s application for up to $60 million made available through a new federal Race to the Top initiative called the Early Learning Challenge.
Applications are due by Oct. 15.
Competition will be stiff …but we feel good about our chances. These federal funds will reward states which create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards and meaningful workforce development.
In an age of advanced technology, hand-held videogames and all the many electronic gadgets that are available to our children, it’s hard to reconcile the relative wants of most children with the extreme needs that still exist for many.
Today I addressed hundreds of activists who advocate on behalf of children’s needs at the 7th Annual Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol.
Throughout my career, I too have fought for Kentucky’s children and their families and have continued to do so as Governor.
Recent headlines have broadcast acts of cruelty among children based on bigotry and have spurred nation-wide “anti-bullying” campaigns. Back in April 2008, I signed “The Golden Rule Act”—legislation that required “anti-bullying” policies to be put in state public schools to prevent harassment and forms of intimidation among students, including cyber-bullying.
This legislative session one of my top priorities, and one that has been championed by our First Lady, is HB 225, the Graduation Bill—a measure that raises the mandatory high school attendance age to 18.
Passing HB225 will not only increase the number of high school graduates, but it will send a message to our children that education is a priority and the foundation of their future success.
And in order for a child to educate their mind, they need to have a healthy body.
Since Nov. ‘08, we’ve stepped up efforts to ensure health coverage for our poorest children. To date, we have tracked down and enrolled almost 52,000 children who were eligible for coverage through programs like the Kentucky Children Health Insurance Program (KCHIP) and Medicaid.
At the same time, we have made great strides toward addressing fundamental problems in Kentucky that increase health care costs as a whole—including obesity, smoking and dental problems in our children.
Recently, we expanded the Kentucky Tobacco Quit Line to offer counseling services to younger Kentuckians between age 15 and 17. Previously, the service was available to those over 18.
In 2009, we launched a 3 year initiative to improve quality and access to dental care, especially for the children of Eastern Kentucky.
And this year, I proposed legislation to establish a Kentucky Child Abuse and Neglect Fatality Review Panel because the loss of a child at the hands of an abuser or as a result of neglect is unconscionable.
Still yet, we can do much more for our children.
As a father and grandfather, it’s heartbreaking to know that there are kids who will go to bed hungry or sick; children who don’t have a bed to sleep in or a parent or caregiver who doesn’t take an interest in their child’s school work.
Together we can and must work to make Kentucky a place where all children can get the healthy start they require, the education they deserve and the overall proper care they need to be happy, productive citizens of this Commonwealth.
Let’s face it: When you measure education attainment, Kentuckians compare poorly to people in many other states. From numbers of professional degree holders down to number of high school graduates, Kentucky has a lot of ground to make up.
This lack of education has had a devastating impact on life throughout the Commonwealth, in every sector of society, and it’s time we as leaders take ownership of this issue and do something about it.
With House Bill 225 we have an opportunity to attack in earnest a fundamental reason that has held Kentucky back for decades: the problem of high school dropouts.
Simply put, in Kentucky we allow our children – with no plan for their future – to leave school too early and cast aside the education and training that will help them be successful later in life.
House Bill 225 is a multi-layered approach:
• By requiring that Kentucky youth attend school until they’re 18, it’s a firm statement that our children need more education, not less.
• By phasing in the requirement over the next five years, it’s an acknowledgement that this new law will impose some additional obligations on our beleaguered school districts.
• And by also setting up and expanding alternative education programs, it’s a recognition that there are some students who learn better in non-traditional settings.
I held a press conference earlier today touting HB225 and was joined by many supporters, including the First Lady—who has made it a personal priority to increase Kentucky’s graduation rate, Rep. Jeff Greer—who sponsored the legislation, and UK basketball great Jamal Mashburn—who pledged his support for the bill as a part of his efforts to encourage kids to stay in school.
We all want to do what it takes to help our children – and thus our state – succeed.
I want to leave you with a thought…
In Kentucky, a high school graduate, on average, makes $6,800 more a year than someone who didn’t graduate.
Nationally, that number is higher: the median income of a high school graduate is almost $9,000 more than a non-graduate.
And if you go on to college, that number is even higher: the difference in salary between a high school dropout and a college graduate is almost $30,000 a year.
Over a professional career, that’s well more than a $1 million in income.
In contrast, dropouts tend to cost society: Statistics show that on average Kentucky spends $2,113 more a year for support programs like housing, food stamps, and Medicaid on a dropout rather than a graduate.
The numbers don’t lie. The goal is explicit. This bill passed the House in the 2010 session, and it’s now time to write House Bill 225—the graduation bill—into law.
Early childhood development and education have been among my highest priorities since the day I took office.
Unfortunately, the fiscal realities of this global economic recession have kept us from investing a lot of new money into that area … but with a lot of thought and hard work we are revolutionizing how Kentucky delivers services to this fragile population.
One of the biggest challenges for our K-12 public school system is that too many children come into kindergarten year unprepared to learn.
Some are plagued with health problems. Others have had little mental stimulation and don’t possess the basic building blocks of knowledge expected by that age.
Preparing those children – all of our children – for a lifetime of learning is the goal of the Governor’s Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education, which I created two years ago.
Earlier this year the task force delivered its first report, which was a catalog of all the wide range of services and programs Kentucky offers families and children from prenatal to the start of school.
Those services are delivered by a variety of state government agencies … local government … health, mental health and social service agencies … non-profit and for-profit providers … and federally funded quasi-governmental entities.
On Monday the task force delivered to me its second and final report, which features eight recommendations designed to create a framework – a unified vision -- for Kentucky’s state agencies, community partners and families to work together to improve early learning experiences and opportunities.
You can see the report at www.educationcabinet.ky.gov, but essentially it revolves around the fundamental concept of “school readiness.”
That concept is so fundamental that the task force developed and adopted as its mission statement the following definition:
“We want each child to enter school ready to engage in and benefit from early learning experiences that best promote the child’s success – ready to grow, ready to learn, ready to succeed.”
We owe all of our children the opportunity for a promising life.
That’s equally true whether they live in the inner city, in a remote mountain community, on a farm or in a suburb.
And when we fulfill that promise, when we create a curious and whip-smart work force, we position the state for economic success.
In today’s world, the most valuable currency is not gold or trade goods or coin … but intellectual capital.
Brains and skills.
The ability to think, to create, to solve problems, to posit theories and test them and to stretch boundaries of knowledge.
Those abilities are not created in adulthood or in college. They might be strengthened there, but the seeds of intellect are planted much earlier.
Earlier than high school. Earlier than elementary school. Earlier even than kindergarten.
Quite simply, people learn most rapidly in the first three years or so of their life.
That’s not just development theory – that is biological fact.
So for Kentucky to position itself as a competitive force in the knowledge-based world around us, we must do a better job of positioning our children – all of our children – for a better start in life.
We will be studying the report and its recommendations in the days ahead to determine how to proceed.
In the meantime, I want to thank the co-chairs of the task force -- Secretary Janie Miller from the Health and Family Services Cabinet and Secretary Joe Meyer from the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet – as well as the 26 other members of the task force for their time, commitment and expertise.
These included public and private child-care providers, school system personnel, college professors and business leaders.
They met 16 times as a group over the past 20 months, listening to experts, studying reports, reading research and inviting the public to participate.
The report was a vibrant process … and its successful implementation could be a long-term game-changer for this state.
With the entire globe mired in a deep economic recession, keeping Kentucky’s state budget afloat has been a full-time mission requiring a steady, strategic and day-by-day approach.
In the wake of the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in mid-August, the time for aggressive action is again upon us.
The news is both good and bad.
The good news concerns school funding, and an unanticipated infusion of cash.
The bad news concerns the Medicaid budget, and a new funding hole created when the General Assembly greatly overestimated the federal help coming our way in the Medicaid program.
First, the good news.
Kentucky is getting $134.9 million from the Education Jobs Fund, money that we are sending directly to school districts through our current SEEK formula. It must be used to retain, hire and rehire school personnel -- including teachers -- and to support related expenses that were in jeopardy because of funding pressures.
In short, 100 percent of these funds will be used to support classroom instruction, which has been a high priority of mine throughout this crisis.
Our schools haven’t faced the disastrous cuts inflicted in other states because we acted aggressively early in this financial crisis to both cut state spending and yet protect education spending from those cuts.
Still, as school officials will tell you, these new funds – though one-time in nature – are desperately needed.
I urge our schools to be cautious and conservative with these funds because they will not be available next fiscal year, which promises to be even more challenging from a funding perspective.
Now for the bad news.
If you remember, the two-year budget passed by the House and the Senate earlier this year contained a $238 million assumption: that Congress would pass legislation to increase federal funding for state Medicaid programs set up to provide health care to low-income families, children, pregnant women and the disabled.
My proposed budget did not include this “money-to-come-later” line item. While aware of the possibility of an extended higher Medicaid match rate, I was not confident that it would happen.
Instead, I made tough decisions to cut spending, and I took the bold step of proposing new, recurring revenue in the form of limited expanded gaming.
As we all know, the legislature did not agree with my more conservative approach. And although they also failed to agree on how to balance the budget in the regular session, they came together in special session to pass a budget that counted on the extra $238 million.
Unfortunately, while Congress did indeed increase federal funding, the increase was limited in nature – only about 58 percent of what was assumed.
Instead of $238 million, Kentucky is getting a little more than $137 million.
That creates, in essence, a hole of $100 million in state funding for Kentucky’s Medicaid program. With state funding matched on a roughly 4 to 1 basis by federal funds during this period of enhanced funding, we’re left with a program shortfall of about $470 million.
By June 30, 2011, we have to account for that gap.
Two things will make that especially difficult.
One, because so many people in Kentucky have lost their jobs because of the recession, over the last two fiscal years we have added nearly 3,000 people a month to the Medicaid rolls.
And two, the budget I introduced already contained a series of cost-containment measures – $125 million in state funds alone, or total program reductions of about $584 million.
Our Cabinet for Health and Family Services has announced a first round of such measures, including reducing the unnecessary use of medical services, treatments and ER visits … eliminating the ability of patients to “doctor-shop” in order to obtain unnecessary drugs … managing pharmacy costs more effectively… increasing efforts to collect payments from liable third parties for Medicaid services … stopping the practice of paying hospitals for hospital-acquired infections and errors … recouping payments to providers by partnering with the Department of Revenue … and more aggressively identifying fraud and abuse.
We’re working on the second round of actions right now.
Cutting an additional $470 million in program costs could have a catastrophic impact on our people.
Now, I know that the General Assembly has created two groups to focus on Medicaid issues, one of which was set up in the 2010 regular session. These groups – the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee and the Task Force on Medicaid Cost Containment – have been meeting jointly.
So today I called on those groups to immediately begin working on recommendations to address this budget shortfall. With those recommendations, we can then begin to come together to find solutions to this problem.
And time is urgent.
We are just two months into the fiscal year, but already it appears we will need to address the budget again when the General Assembly comes to town in four months.
Over the fall, my staff and I will be watching state revenues closely … and we will be developing scenarios on how to balance a budget that has been unbalanced by federal action that does not match up with the assumptions made by the General Assembly.
This is a huge challenge, but then we’re used to it.
I hear a lot of people talk about cutting the budget and shrinking government.
Talk is easy. The going gets difficult when it comes time to actually “walk the walk.”
Getting the job done takes more than slogans and political sound bites. It takes courage, commitment and leadership. It takes the willingness to step up and make tough decisions, to be honest about fiscal realities, and to think ahead.
For nearly three years I’ve been leading Kentucky through this tumultuous time by combining fiscal discipline with the willingness to make tough choices such as furloughs and lay-offs of political appointees.
And I’ve worked to put policy above politics.
I will continue to take that approach, and I urge others to do likewise.
“What do you want your schools to do?”
Kentuckians have an opportunity tonight to show commitment to their schools – as well as have a voice in how those schools prepare our children for the 21st Century.
In a series of 10 community forums held simultaneously around the state, we will be seeking input on education issues as part of the year-long Transforming Education in Kentucky initiative.
Immediately following the forums, KET will broadcast a live panel discussion with myself, the First Lady, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Bob King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education. The panel will address questions and issues that come up at the local forums.
For times and locations, as well as information about the TEK initiative, please visit http://bit.ly/cFw2F2
Twenty years ago we as a state took a stand against failure.
Pushed by a court ruling and energized by widespread community support, we created from scratch a system guaranteeing all children in the Commonwealth a chance at a quality education – regardless of income, race or geographic location.
We’ve made significant and measurable progress over the last 20 years, but all the while the world has been dramatically changing. The fundamental foundation of knowledge and skills that one requires to function – and succeed – has expanded far beyond what we could have possibly imagined while writing and implementing the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.
Nearly two decades later, I created the TEK initiative and a 34-member task force last fall to better focus our schools on the unified goal of preparing Kentucky students for success in college and in the work force.
Incremental improvement is no longer enough. The modern, highly competitive world requires us to move in an all-out sprint.
Kentucky needs not just new energy but also new strategies.
Members of the TEK task force – which include parents, teachers, superintendents, education advocates, lawmakers, and business and community leaders – are working to help develop these strategies while reinvigorating public and business support.
Their meetings have focused on improving college readiness, expanding opportunities to earn college credit during high school and creating a system of assessments that measure what employers value. They also have discussed ramping up academics in career and technical education, using technology to improve teaching and learning, improving teacher recruitment and retention and improving transitions between preschool and K-12.
While many efforts to improve student achievement are already underway, TEK is designed to stitch these initiatives into a comprehensive fabric, creating not an array of stand-alone programs and goals but something much more powerful, something much more focused.
The end goal is to create a unified vision of what schools in the Commonwealth need to offer in order to better serve students today and tomorrow.
But now we need your help.
Let us renew our promise to our children, and let us recommit ourselves to our state’s future.
Hope to hear from you tonight.
For years we’ve heard stories about students who move from two-year programs at Kentucky’s community and technical schools to four-year colleges and universities, only to find that some of their course credits didn’t transfer.
Having to retake classes is not only frustrating but expensive and time-consuming.
As I made clear in my State of the Commonwealth address in January, one of my top goals during this legislative session was to fix this problem.
Kentucky’s system of higher education, I said, needed to be more affordable, accessible and efficient.
Today I signed into law House Bill 160, called “the transfer credits” bill.
It mandates the alignment of degree programs so that students can move seamlessly from associate degree programs to four-year bachelor’s programs.
Among other things, the bill also encourages cooperation between private and public colleges and reins in the expanding hours needed for associate’s and bachelor’s degrees to 60 and 120, respectively.
Throughout, it creates a more uniform, standard system so programs, transcripts, data and reporting methods are aligned across institutions.
One of the best ways to improve graduation rates and lower the cost of attending college is to help our kids move through the system as efficiently as possible.
House Bill 160 moves us significantly in that direction.
The Kentucky House this week passed HB 301, the bill that would raise the dropout age from 16 to 18.
This is a key part of Jane’s Graduate Kentucky initiative and to me, a no-brainer. How can our children prepare for a competitive world if they don’t go to school? We need more education, not less.
Besides, we have a “celebrity endorser.”
Last week the former NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson came in for a business meeting, and he took the opportunity to publicly back the Graduate Kentucky initiative in a well-attended press conference. “You have to raise the dropout age,” he implored.
We later took in a University of Kentucky game, during which he talked passionately about his commitment to young kids, education and urban communities. He also generously committed to financially supporting the Black Males Working Academy in Fayette County.
A class gentleman.
Now, let’s hope the dropout bill passes the Senate quickly.
Meanwhile, probably my biggest priority over the last year has been to save and create jobs.
A recent release shows the urgency: Kentucky’s annual unemployment rate reached 10.5 percent in 2009, the highest rate since 1983. That’s up nearly 4 percentage points from 2008, and a cold, clear snapshot of the impact of this global recession.
Individually, a job represents survival for families out of work. Collectively, jobs will pull us out of this recession.
Jobs jobs jobs.
I can’t say it enough.
Last summer we overhauled Kentucky’s economic development tools with the help of the General Assembly, and we have been using those tools to invest in both new companies and, just as importantly, in existing Kentucky companies looking to grow.
We will continue to do that, aggressively, in communities around the state.
Kentucky’s ongoing effort to build a world-class education system got another boost Thursday when we were named one of 16 finalists in the competition for federal Race to the Top funding.
It moves us closer to what we hope is $200 million for our schools.
We have a strong application. The feds are looking for states committed to making progress in four areas -- standards and assessments, collection and use of data, teacher effectiveness and distribution and low-performing schools. Those areas dovetail neatly with education initiatives already under way in the Bluegrass State.
The next step will be to defend our Race to the Top application in Washington D.C. The first round of funds should be distributed this spring.
Our “finalist” achievement is more recognition, I think, that Kentucky is seen as a national leader in education reform.
Obviously we got the nation’s attention in 1990 with KERA, but we continue to impress with efforts to keep the mission going. Recently we were the first state, for example, to adopt newly designed national common core content standards.
The thing to remember is that reform isn’t a one-time shot. It’s a continual process. The Transforming Education in Kentucky initiative I kicked off last fall is part of that effort. TEK is designed to re-energize community support for our schools and to stitch together existing reform efforts (such common standards initiative) into a comprehensive strategy for matching our schools to the demands of the 21st Century.
A Race to the Top award would move us closer to our eventual goal.