Liz Schlemmer

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.

She has previously served as a temporary Morning Edition producer and intern at WUNC and as a news intern at St. Louis Public Radio. Liz is originally from Indiana, where she grew up with a large extended family of educators.

 

Bart Everson

On the first day of August, just two weeks before most Kentucky schools start class, there were 2,974 vacancies posted for public school educators across the state. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis says that’s a serious problem. 

“We see more districts, that begin the academic year — where kids are showing up in classrooms — and they have not filled positions,” Lewis said.

And in some cases, he says students may even finish the school year with a long term substitute or a teacher who is not fully certified.


Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

Policymakers across Kentucky — and the nation — have grappled with how to best prevent mass school shootings committed by children, like those in Parkland, Florida and Marshall County, Kentucky.

In Kentucky, lawmakers’ best efforts have resulted in a new school safety law that schools will have to begin implementing in 2022. Many districts are already beginning to assess their compliance and make plans to meet the new requirements. The Jefferson County School Board will meet Tuesday night to discuss the district’s efforts to comply with the new law.

Creative Commons

Life expectancy in the United States has declined for the third year in a row, driven in part by a rise in mortality among working-aged white Americans.

A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sought to pinpoint where mortality was worsening, and why. Researchers found higher rates of mortality among rural white women who live in Kentucky, as well as in Appalachia and other states across the south and central part of the country.

 


Liz Schlemmer

One seat on the Jefferson County Board of Education will soon be up for grabs after Board member Benjamin Gies announced his resignation Monday.

The board will get to exercise a new right to select the next person to fill the seat, based on a recent change in state law. A law passed this spring shifts the decision to fill vacancies from the Kentucky Commissioner of Education to a majority vote by the school board. Any school board vacancy in the state announced after June 27 this year is subject to that change.

Liz Schlemmer

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear took another jab at Governor Matt Bevin Friday, one day after scoring a win in their on-going battle over whether the state will discipline teachers for participating in “sickouts” that closed Jefferson County Public Schools six days this spring.

Beshear’s challenge is the latest highlight in his campaign to unseat Bevin as governor.

In a campaign appearance Friday, Beshear said Bevin should “do something right” and fire his Labor Secretary David Dickerson for pursuing an investigation into teachers who called in sick to protest education bills at the Capitol. 

education.ky.gov

In his monthly report to the Kentucky Board of Education Wednesday, Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis gave an impassioned argument that overall school funding would not solve all the problems schools face. Instead, Lewis called for “additional strategic funding” to address inequities in education. Among that targeted funding, Lewis suggested that performance-based pay for teachers could be an effective strategy for improving Kentucky schools.

“If we’re honest about it, there is no incentive currently to be a great teacher,” Lewis told the Board of Education.

Lewis argued better incentives for teachers would help teacher retention overall, and specifically attract more experienced educators to serve in high need schools. Lewis said currently, the schools with the greatest need are frequently heavily staffed by first year teachers.

Nicole Erwin I Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky’s incumbent Commissioner of Agriculture has won the Republican nomination in his bid for reelection.

Ryan Quarles was the first winner to be called in Tuesday night’s primary election. Quarles received than 82 percent of the votes with 92 percent of precincts reporting. He defeated challenger Bill Polyniak, a cannabis farmer from Fayette County.

Quarles has supported the rise of hemp as an agricultural product in Kentucky, and his administration led a statewide initiative to study and address hunger. He has also worked to expand Kentucky’s international export market, by resuming live equine exports to China.

Liz Schlemmer

School choice is a big buzzword in education policy, and in many parts of the country, opinions on it usually run along party lines. Republicans tend to be for school choice, and Democrats against — however, that’s not the case among all of Kentucky’s candidates for governor.

School choice covers a wide range of policies that all do one thing: give students more support to attend schools outside the realm of traditional public education. Relative to other states in the South and Midwest, Kentucky has been slow to adopt school choice measures like charter schools and scholarship tax credits.


Liz Schlemmer

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet filed a notice of removal Thursday, seeking to move a lawsuit Attorney General Andy Beshear and the Jefferson County Teachers Association filed in state court to federal court.

The lawsuit sought to block subpoenas the Kentucky Labor Cabinet issued to 10 school districts to seek attendance records that could identify school employees who called in sick to protest during the last legislative session.

Ryland Barton

The Kentucky Department of Education has handed over records to the Labor Cabinet that could identify teachers who participated in a sickout at the state Capitol that closed Jefferson County Public Schools for six days this spring.

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher confirmed the department received a subpoena from the Labor Cabinet Thursday demanding the records by the end of the day.

KDE had the attendance records in hand. In March, KDE itself had required 10 school districts, including JCPS, to send documents regarding the days schools closed due to the protests. At that time, Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis said the department would not directly punish teachers, but indicated in a press release that the Labor Cabinet could investigate the matter and seek to fine teachers up to $1,000.

Liz Schlemmer

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed a lawsuit to block subpoenas issued by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration as part of an investigation into teacher sickouts.

The complaint Beshear filed Monday seeks a temporary injunction to prevent school districts from having to submit records to the Kentucky Labor Cabinet that might identify teachers who participated in recent sickouts at the statehouse. Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson has said it is his office’s duty to investigate whether school employees broke a state law prohibiting public employees from striking. The Labor Cabinet could punish any violation of that law with a fine of up to $1,000. 

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is blaming the shooting of a Louisville child on last month’s teacher sickouts.

“While we had people pretending to be sick when they weren’t sick, and leaving kids unattended to, or in situations that they should not have been in, a girl was shot,” Bevin said in comments to the Louisville Rotary Club Thursday.

The 7-year-old girl was shot on March 12, a day when Jefferson County Public Schools were closed due to teacher protests.

Liz Schlemmer

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet has subpoenaed Jefferson County Public Schools, in relation to teacher-led sickouts that forced the school district to close six days while educators protested at the state legislature.

A JCPS spokeswoman confirmed that district officials received the subpoena Wednesday afternoon, and the district later released a copy of the subpoena. The Labor Cabinet’s deputy secretary and communications staff did not respond to a request for information regarding the subpoena, which was first reported by Insider Louisville

Simpson County Schools Facebook

For as many education bills that Kentucky lawmakers passed in the 2019 legislative session, many other proposed measures failed.

Whether some of these bills fell flat primarily due to strong opposition from this year’s especially vocal educators or from a lack of unified support from the General Assembly’s Republican majority is still up for debate.

Here are some of the 2019 legislative proposals related to education that stalled out, got stuck in committee or were dead on arrival:

Liz Schlemmer

On the final day of the legislative session, state senators confirmed Governor Matt Bevin’s nine appointments to the Kentucky Board of Education. The Senate confirmed eight of those appointments by a concurrence vote Thursday afternoon, then unexpectedly singled out the resolution to confirm the appointment of appointee Gary Houchens for a full debate.

“In Mr. Houchens in particular, we have someone who has publicly warred with our educators,” said Louisville Democratic Senator Morgan McGarvey. “His social media account,  his op-eds are numerous and clearly outline his version of education in Kentucky. I say ‘education’ because they don’t outline a vision for ‘public education.'”

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