Education Commissioner reacts to 2016 session and what issues he thinks are on horizon

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says he is grateful to the governor and legislature for not cutting funding to K-12 education in the state’s new two-year budget and added he believes the conversation over changes to Kentucky’s academic standards will continue, as he thinks they should, but said full repeal should be off the table.

Pruitt told The Bottom Line that while anyone in the education world will say they believe there needs to be more funding put toward education, he was pleased that K-12 funding was not cut in the budget crafted by the General Assembly and Gov. Matt Bevin.

“Obviously, it is always hard because costs continue to rise. But I think at the end of the day, we saw that they felt that we needed to hold steady and we didn’t need to go through some of the cuts that other organizations and agencies did,” Pruitt said. “I think that’s a testament to a lot of people working together to help make the case for why education funding needed to stay where it was but I think that we do also have to give kudos to the governor and to the legislature because at the end of the day, they listened and they said we are going to keep going forward.”

In terms of what education issues he feels will be on the table during the 2017 session of the General Assembly, Pruitt said he believes there will be a lot of talk around accountability in education, on which his department is working, but there still remain questions about the state’s academic standards.

Pruitt noted a piece of legislation filed in the 2016 session that would have made changes to the process for the state’s standards without repealing them and said he would like to see all education stakeholders at the table as discussions about changes to the standards take place.

“So as we continue to work on adjustments to the standards, as we have been very public about, we have been going through a process to get more feedback on those standards and we hope that everybody will be comfortable and hopefully very engaged as we make the necessary changes that we need to,” Pruitt said (at :30 in the video below). “But at the same time, make sure we are keeping the absolute necessities of the standards in place.”

In previous interviews with The Bottom Line, Pruitt has noted that he is open to some changes to the standards to continue improving benchmarks for students and make them even more Kentucky-centric. He also added he believes if all shareholders are at the table and come up with a sensible solution, that would be far more beneficial to the state than full repeal.

“The thing that we have got to do is take care of our teachers. And part of the issue with a repeal is that the teachers don’t have a place to go. So I believe it is time for revision of the standards, in fact I believe that the revisions we are going through actually make them even more of Kentucky’s standards and a lot less of being able to talk about common core or whatever. But there are things we have learned in implementing these standards that there are things that need to be more clear, there are things that need to be moved to different grade levels, and frankly there things that the public are telling us have sort of been left out,” Pruitt said.

Watch the interview segment with Education Commissioner Pruitt here:

Check back on The Bottom Line later this week to see what the Kentucky Department of Education is doing to tackle the state’s education accountability system.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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