FRANKFORT — Reorganizing the state Early Childhood Development Authority, providing more money for preschool programs, creating family literacy programs and improving efforts to recruit high-quality teachers are among recommendations by a gubernatorial task force to "transform" K-12 education in Kentucky.
Legislation that would fulfill one of the group's recommendations — raising Kentucky's mandatory school attendance age to 18 — has been approved by the House and is being considered in the Senate.
Gov. Steve Beshear created the Governor's Task Force on Transforming Education in Kentucky in fall 2009. The panel — composed of parents, teachers, educators, legislators and business leaders— has spent 15 months researching ways for Kentucky to better prepare its students for success. The panel presented its final list of 35 recommendations to Beshear on Monday.
"Kentucky has a history of innovative educational initiatives ... . But today's world requires a different core of knowledge that all students need for success," Beshear said.
"I appreciate the hard work of the task force to ensure that our students are armed with the skills necessary to compete in the workplace with their peers in other states and around the world."
While the task force's recommendations are generally straightforward, proposals that would involve increased state funding could face a struggle in tough economic times. The recommendations include:
■ Reorganize the Early Childhood Development Authority, providing support for students at all levels of kindergarten readiness.
■ Include enough money in the state budget to improve access to high-quality preschool programs.
■ Create family literacy programs, providing comprehensive family engagement in all schools, especially the lowest-achieving schools.
■ Include money in the state budget to expand programs for recruiting high-quality teacher candidates.
Cindy Heine, interim executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, praised the report's stress on preschool education and parental engagement.
"We think those are very important for giving students an opportunity to begin school on a successful note," she said.
Heine added that the funding recommendations highlight the need for Kentucky to "get its priorities in order and put education at the top of the list."
But Richard Innes, an analyst with the free-market Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said he was "extremely disappointed" with the report.
"There's virtually nothing new in here," he said.
Innes also contended that the report should have been ready in December. With the legislative session ending March 22, there's little time for lawmakers to deal with its recommendations, he said.