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Kentucky Ed. Commissioner Terry Holliday: Pension Reform Likely Legislative Focus

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says despite a legislative session next year that’s likely to focus on pension reform, he expects some key education initiatives to be brought up, discussed and even passed.

According to recommendations from a task force, the state needs to allocate nearly $300 million to honor its pension obligations,which would likely take money away from several other departments. “We’re already suffering from pretty severe budget cuts in education. So the money moved to the pension system will have dramatic impact on the rest of the state budget and I’m sure education would not be excluded,” Holliday said. But Holliday says he does expect lawmakers to introduce legislation around school safety following the shootings in Newtown Connecticut.  “I think you’re going to see a number of possible bills coming out following up from the Newtown incident,” he told WFPL. What that legislation may look like is not yet clear, but Holliday does disagree with NRA officials who, after the shooting, said they would like to see armed guards at schools nationwide. Holliday says Kentucky’s response could include more funding for the Kentucky Center for School Safety, whose budget has been dramatically cut the past five years, according to reports in the Courier-Journal. Holliday further expects legislation regarding teacher and principal evaluations to be reconsidered next year. Under education reforms passed in 2009, all schools are expected to have a new evaluation system in place next school year. The new system would likely measure teacher performance based partly on student test scores, which has been controversial among some in education. Currently, local school districts set their own evaluation systems. Holliday also says the state is working on adopting new science and social studies standards will be rolled out over the next year. Adoption of the new standards were part of Senate Bill 1 in 2009. Around half of the states have been involved in the Next Generation Science Standardswhich Holliday says has "saved quite a bit of money that we would have had to spend on developing independent standards." Holliday says when the new science scores are assessed in the 2014-2015 school year, the education department will likely see a similar drop in proficiency rates as math and English saw this year under the state's new accountability system. Also being considered in the legislature are two regulatory changes. One includes the department's new restraint and seclusion policy, which provides more training and direction for teachers managing misbehaving students. Holliday says he believes there is consensus on the issue and he expects the education committee to approve the change.The second is a regulation improving oversight, management and tracking of the state's alternative programs.