Gov. Steve Beshear said in Lexington on Monday that he is naming a new task force to plan K-12 educational improvements, hoping to build on successes begun with the Kentucky Education Reform Act almost 20 years ago.
Beshear made the announcement at Meadowthorpe Elementary School during the first stop on a three-day statewide tour that will include press conferences and town hall meetings to promote the importance of education.
The Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force will have 31 members, including state legislators and education cabinet officials, plus representatives from business, education, advocacy groups and several Kentucky cities. Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman will be a member.
At Beshear's invitation, state Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he has appointed state Sens. Ken Winters, R-Murray, and Jack Westwood, R-Crescent Springs, to serve on the task force. But Williams said in a letter to Beshear that he made the appointments "with some reservation" because the new body's focus is "duplicative" of current legislative committees and-or has been the subject of legislative bills.
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KERA's passage in 1990 "made a promise to our children ... that guaranteed the opportunity for a quality education regardless of income, regardless of race, regardless of geographic location," Beshear said.
"It's time to re-create that enthusiasm," he said. "It's time to re-energize our schools; it's time to regalvanize the support that sparked that revolution."
Beshear will co-chair the task force with Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. The governor listed no specific instructions for the new panel. But he suggested that it should consider these "guiding principles:"
■ Boosting teacher recruitment and training.
■ Ramping up academics at Kentucky's career and technical schools.
■ Smoothing transition from pre-school to K-12.
■ Giving high school students more opportunities to earn college credit.
■ Making better use of technology.
■ Developing an assessment system to measure skills that employers value.
The task force's work also must dovetail with other educational initiatives already under way, he said, including revision of state educational standards, the Graduate Kentucky program to boost college graduation, and efforts to secure federal Race to the Top dollars for Kentucky.
The governor said he deliberately made no mention of long-range educational funding because the current recession doesn't allow for immediate increases.
Beshear wants the task force to develop proposals by the end of next year, submitting them for consideration by the 2011 General Assembly, he said.
After other appearances Monday in Louisville, Paducah, Henderson and Owensboro, Beshear is to visit Bowling Green, Hazard and Pikeville on Tuesday, winding up his tour with stops in Ashland and Union on Wednesday.
"This effort seeks to build off the progress of the last 20 years in order to lay the foundation for the 20 years ahead," Beshear said.
Williams, however, argued that the governor was covering old ground.
"I respectfully submit that it is past time for your administration to move beyond discussion and to immediate action," he wrote to Beshear.