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Kentucky took a step toward trying to attain nearly $200 million in federal funds for school reform this week when both the Senate and House passed HB 176.
That bill, sponsored by Rep. Carl Rollins (D-Midway), would give school districts the right to close low-performing schools and to reopen them under the management of an educational management organization.
"It calls for a team to audit the lowest 5 percent of high school and middle schools, and once they determine what those schools need, they submit their plan to fix it,” said Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville).
This bill, lawmakers hope, will put Kentucky in position to meet the criteria for the Rise to the Top initiative and secure money from the federal government.
Montell, who had sponsored a bill that included charter schools instead of the education management organization, isn’t completely sold on HB 176.
"We’re one of only 10 states that don’t allow charter schools, so where does that leave us?” Montell asked. "Charter schools are something they’re looking for.”
The bill was fast-tracked after prefiled bills by Montell and Stan Lee (R-Shelbyville) didn’t make it through, and the deadline (Jan. 19) for paperwork for the Rise to the Top program neared.
"I don’t know if this will get us the full $200 million or maybe just a portion of it,” Montell said. "But we’ll continue to work on another bill to address specifically underperforming schools with charter schools as an option. That way, if we need another bill to qualify for the Rise to the Top funds, we’ll be ready.”
Senior administration to take pay cut
Gov. Steve Beshear’s "Smart Government” hit his own this week when he announced that senior members of his administration would take a 10 percent salary reduction.
The reduction was just one of several moves Beshear announced as he tries to put together a budget for the fiscal 2010-12 with a $1.4 billion shortfall.
The reductions will reportedly save the state more than $225,000.
Among other areas, Beshear’s "Smart Government” plan also aims to review the state’s holdings – including property, buildings, cars, trucks and airplanes – to see if any can be sold. A parking garage in Northern Kentucky has sold for $1.5 million, and two airplanes were sold for scrap.