A quality education is essential to leading a successful life. It inspires careers, opens minds and increases job opportunities for individuals as well as for the state as a whole. Preparing the next generation for the future is a great responsibility -- one that can seem even more daunting with our current budgetary challenges.
Governor Steve Beshear understands how a quality education can change someone's life. That's why, despite cutting over $1 billion from the state budget, he has protected SEEK, the primary funding formula for Kentucky's classrooms, from any budget cuts. Throughout the last three years, he has implemented critical reforms, developed new programs and collaborated with education leaders on several initiatives.
Results of his efforts are beginning to show, as Kentucky steadily improves in national rankings. Kentucky ranks 19th among the 50 states in Education Week's 2011 Quality Counts report, which offers a highly respected assessment of education. In addition, on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, Kentucky's 4th and 8th graders outperformed the national average in science. And in reading, Kentucky was the only state to improve both 4th- and 8th-grade scores between 2007 and 2009. Kentucky's ranking for per-pupil total higher education funding has improved to 12th in the nation and Kentucky's ranking for the number of young adults with a bachelors degree or greater education is on the rise.
Below are a few example of how Governor Beshear has worked to improve education:
Educating Our Children
* Protected SEEK, the K-12 education funding formula, from budget cuts.
* Leads the effort to increase the high school dropout age to 18.
* Spearheaded the Transforming Education in Kentucky initiative, a statewide effort to stitch together an array of existing education initiatives into a comprehensive strategy and to re-energize and unite the business, academic, political and civic communities around our schools.
* Established the Governor's Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education to develop recommendations that better prepare our children for a competitive future. Among the group's many tasks, it determined a common understanding and definition of "school readiness" to help guide future policies.
* Signed an anti-bullying bill to protect students in Kentucky's public schools. The bill prohibits bullying, harassment and other forms of intimidation--including cyber-bullying via the Internet among students.
* Signed a bill making it easier for children whose parents are in the military to transfer between schools.
* Announced an effort between the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy to fund a project providing teacher instruction and curriculum for a youth entrepreneurship education program in elementary and middle schools in 18 eastern Kentucky counties.
* Signed House Bill 176 into law, which focuses on how to evaluate and manage low-performing schools.
* Joined a national effort to develop a set of strict, common core academic standards to guide teaching in this nation's classrooms. Kentucky later became the first state to adopt these standards.
* Signed legislation making it easier to transfer credits from a community or technical college to any of Kentucky's four-year universities.
* Worked with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to offer a 50 percent tuition scholarship to many of Kentucky's displaced workers while also helping workers over age 50 obtain technology skills.
* Secured a $50 million bond to ensure student loans remained available to Kentuckians wanting to go to college from the state's only public, nonprofit student loan provider.
* Created the Higher Education Work Group to find ways to make college more affordable and financial more accessible for those who want to seek post-secondary education opportunities.
* Attached the Council on Post-Secondary Education to the Governor's Office, elevating this critical agency and demonstrating the importance of higher education to the administration.
* Signed a Memorandum of Understanding in support of the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning Kentucky survey. The TELL Kentucky survey, which will be administered by the New Teacher Center, aims to gather feedback from 44,000 teachers and other experts on how to improve Kentucky schools.
* Collaborated with the General Assembly to pass a pension reform bill that included honoring the Commonwealth's commitment to its teachers.
* Established a plan for long-term funding of teacher retiree health care, ensuring that Kentucky's retired teachers, as well as active teachers once they retire, will continue to receive health benefits.