#KYEdUpdate: Hal Heiner, JCPS Takeover, and EPSB Overhaul

While teachers and students across the Commonwealth are holding on tight to their final days of summer, the action in Frankfort and beyond just keeps coming.

The Kentucky Board of Education has a new chairman, but he’s no first-timer in Frankfort. Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has a deal for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), one of the largest districts in the nation, but the threat of a takeover still looms. And the Kentucky Department of Education is absorbing the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB), giving the state more power in the teacher certification process.

Suffice it to say that it’s been an interesting month in the world of Kentucky education. Let’s dive in.

Here Comes Hal

In the biggest ed news of the month, the newly-appointed Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) has selected Hal Heiner as its chairman.

This comes after a controversial June vote which changed the rules for leadership contention: now, any member of the KBE can be appointed as chairman, regardless of their tenure. Mr. Heiner has served as a KBE member for three months.

The appointment has been met with backlash from teacher’s unions and charter school opponents, who are frustrated with Mr. Heiner’s history of charter support and outspoken criticism of the JCPS district.

“Why can’t 32 out of 100 third graders in JCPS read?” Mr. Heiner asked the KBE in April, the Courier-Journal reports. “The numbers reflect a district that despite a budget among the very highest in the state, is home to 17 of the state’s 25 lowest performing elementary schools.”

Mr. Heiner, who formerly served as the state’s Education and Workforce Cabinet Secretary, resigned in April to join the KBE. Now serving as the board’s chair, he won’t have more voting power than his colleagues, but will have a larger role in crafting the board’s agenda.

I suspect that JCPS parents, teachers, and students will be following this story closely.

Let’s Make A Deal?

There was quite a stir back in May when Interim Commissioner Wayne Lewis called for a state takeover of JCPS after just two weeks on the job.

Since then, the JCPS board voted unanimously to appeal that recommendation, and the state has decided that hearings over the decision will begin September 10th. But there might be another solution.

On Monday, Commissioner Lewis informed the Courier Journal that he has offered a deal to JCPS that would result in “enhanced oversight” of the district rather than an all-out state takeover.

Commissioner Lewis declined to release details of the offer, but stated that the settlement would concede “veto-authority” to the state over some JCPS programs. The deadline for JCPS to respond to the deal has been set for August 1st, and while JCPS spokesperson Allison Martin has indicated that “the district is in the process of reviewing what was presented,” the district has not yet reached a decision on the interim commissioner’s offer.

The EPSB As We Knew It

The Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB) is something that every teacher has had to deal with at some point. But in case you didn’t know, the EPSB is the organization that’s responsible for approving university education programs, overseeing teacher certifications and renewals, investigating instances of misconduct, and enforcing rigorous standards of professionalism for educators and prospective teachers.

By executive order of Governor Matt Bevin on Wednesday, the EPSB has been abolished and its responsibilities have been transferred to the Kentucky Department of Education under a new office, called the Office of Educator Licensure and Effectiveness.

As Interim Commissioner Lewis told Kentucky Teacher, “This new structure provides for greater coordination of the state’s efforts pertaining to educator preparation, licensure, and professional development. The order will create a more streamlined and efficient system for ensuring that Kentucky students have access to well-prepared and effective educators.”

So will this transfer of responsibilities lead to changes in certification requirements? Will standards for university education programs stay the same? With the EPSB under new oversight, it remains to be seen.

That’s all for this #KYEdUpdate! Stay tuned to see what happens next.

 

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