Senate Week in Review: Legislature acts quickly to help get federal education funds
By Senator Joey Pendleton

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

A legislative session is a marathon, not a sprint. Very few bills make it through the lengthy process of becoming law in five days - the minimum necessary under our Constitution - especially so early in the year.
But the chance to capture millions of dollars in federal funding for our schools was an opportunity we had to jump on immediately. House Bill 176 became the first piece of legislation to reach Governor Beshear’s desk this year as both chambers worked quickly to allow state education officials time to complete their application for the funding. The Governor signed the bill last Thursday, Jan. 14.
Time was of the essence because there is a Jan.19 deadline to apply for federal Race to the Top funds - up to $200 million or more that can be used toward improving our schools. HB 176 also qualifies us for $45 million in other federal funds aimed at improving schools. Especially given our current budget situation, we must take advantage of every responsible opportunity to invest in our schools because well-educated students are the surest path to growing the state economy.
HB 176 moves education reform in an important direction. First, we addressed the needs of persistently low-performing schools - those with lagging graduation rates or reading and math scores that continue to perform at the bottom of federal or state test results.
Schools that have trouble meeting these minimum standards will have four options to revitalize student achievement, depending on the schools’ circumstances and the school council and administration’s ability to lead that effort. One option would involve removing the principal and school council, while another would replace half or more of the school’s faculty and staff with teachers from higher-achieving schools. A third option would turn over management of the school to an outside group, subject to the approval of the local and state school boards. The most drastic step would be to close the school entirely and transfer its students to higher-achieving schools. None of these options would be taken lightly. An audit committee would look at the school from top to bottom before deciding on which course of action to take.
However, even without federal incentives, this legislation is a positive step toward making sure we uphold the basic tenet of KERA - that all students can achieve highly, regardless of their background.
The Senate has made education a priority in our chamber, therefore, before we passed HB 176 out of our chamber, we took the opportunity to make improvements to the legislation. Kentucky’s Race to the Top application will also include a plan to expand the Advance Kentucky program by 20 high schools each year. This program helps Kentucky students take college-level coursework while still in high school, challenging them to push themselves harder and saving them thousands of dollars in college tuition later. Last year’s test results showed an increase in passing test scores of 76.6 percent -- proof that Advance Kentucky is an effective use of State resources.
As I have written before, there are a multitude of ways to follow our work in the General Assembly, from our calendar hotline to our eNews service. This week, we unveiled yet another way to broaden citizens’ access to their public officials. Our website,, is now iPhone-friendly.
To gain access to the new site, go to, click on the “+” at the bottom of your iPhone and then “Add to home screen.” This will add an LRC app to your iPhone that makes our website easier to navigate.
As always, you can stay in contact with me by calling the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181 or contact me personally at I always look forward to hearing from Kentuckians with an interest in the work of the General Assembly.

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