Jess Clark

Jess Clark is WWNO's Education Desk reporter. Jess comes to the station after two years as Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting for North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC (Chapel Hill). Her reporting has aired on national programs, including NPR's All Things ConsideredHere & Now from WBURand NPR's Weekend Edition

Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Jess graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with a master's in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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State lawmakers have proposed changing Kentucky’s new 5-star school rating system.

bill filed by Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) proposes changes to graduation requirements, grading metrics and how schools are identified for turnarounds. Givens said the bill is an “update” to the 2017 legislation that created the accountability system.

“This continues to refine that in very positive ways,” he said. “And that’s the motivation for the bill.”

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bill filed by Kentucky Senate president Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) would take away the power of the governor to reorganize the state board of education. The bill would likely prevent future wholesale ousters of board members, like the one carried out by Gov. Andy Beshear.

When Beshear took office, one of his first acts as governor was to dissolve the Kentucky Board of Education. The board’s members were all appointed by Beshear’s political rival, former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Beshear replaced the Bevin-appointees with his own, and now the dueling boards are duking it out in the courts.

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The state’s first charter school applicant, River Cities Academy, lost its appeal to the Kentucky Board of Education. The board decided Tuesday not to overturn a decision by Newport Independent Schools to deny the group a charter.

A group of parents in Northern Kentucky wanted to open the state’s first charter school, called River Cities Academy (RCA), pulling students from six districts along the river. According to the application, the school was to serve a “diverse learner population” in grades K-8, and focus on closing the achievement gap through experiential learning.

J. Tyler Franklin

Governor Andy Beshear has signed a bill into law requiring all Kentucky school resource officers, or SROs, to carry a gun.

“The threats to our children in our schools is very real,” Beshear said, citing incidents where guns were found on school campuses, a thwarted school shooting plot in Shelby County, and the 2018 shooting in Marshall County.

“I simply cannot ask a school resource officer to stop an armed gunman entering a school without them having the ability to not only achieve this mission, but also to protect themselves,” he said.

Jess Clark | WFPL

In 19 Kentucky school districts, when a student misbehaves, teachers or principals can still use a paddle to spank students on the behind. Last year, educators used paddling to discipline students at least 284 times — mostly in Eastern and South-Central Kentucky. The state keeps track of how often schools use it, and on who.

Kentucky is one of 19 states where corporal punishment is legal in public schools. That means it’s legal for educators in public schools to inflict pain as a form of discipline, usually through spanking. But state lawmakers are considering legislation that would ban the practice.

 


Jess Clark

A federal district judge heard arguments Tuesday in a case brought by several Kentucky Board of Education members ousted by Gov. Andy Beshear.

The members, all appointed by former Gov. Matt Bevin, are asking the court to stop the Beshear-appointed board from meeting.

The seven former board members say Beshear’s decision to remove them shortly after his election was illegal. They asked a state court for a preliminary injunction to prevent the new board from meeting in December, but the state court denied that request. Now, the Bevin appointees are suing in federal court.

 


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Kentucky lawmakers are once again considering a controversial measure that would use a tax credit program to send low- and middle-income students to private schools. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate have filed identical bills to create the Scholarship Tax Credit Program.

Scholarship tax credit programs are already in 18 states, including in neighboring Indiana, according to the national pro-school choice nonprofit EdChoice. Kentucky’s proposed Scholarship Tax Credit Program would create scholarship funds to send low and middle-income students to private school. Students would have to meet one or more of the following requirements to be eligible for a scholarship:

 


On a clear morning in late August, 9-year-old Alongkorn Lafargue hops in the back seat of his father's car. He's wearing his school uniform: neatly ironed khakis and a bright blue polo shirt embroidered with the logo of his new charter school, IDEA Oscar Dunn. Alongkorn has been going there only a few weeks, and his dad, Alex Lafargue, says he has struggled to get his son to talk about what it's like.

"He was anxious," Lafargue says. "And [its] his third week there now. He's starting to open up."

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