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FRANKFORT - The Senate is moving forward through the 2010 Regular Session as committee meetings are now in full swing and the Senate has begun debating bills concerning education and state government.
Educating the next generation is one of the most important issues we address in the state legislature and an area in which the Senate has provided leadership in the past sessions.
We know that as the economy changes, we must invest in our education programs in order to ready the next generation of Kentuckians to the changing workforce that will come in the 21st century.
That starts with making sure that our state’s low performing schools receive appropriate attention from the state to adequately improve their performance over the course of time.
At the same time that we are continuing to look for ways to offer significant initiatives to improve our delivery of education services in Kentucky, we face a financial battle with the current state of our economy.
And so we must balance the needs of our struggling schools with our state’s pocketbook by looking for ways to get the biggest bang for our buck.
House Bill 176 (Senate Committee Substitute) is our latest attempt to do just that.
It was the first bill passed by the full Senate this session. Kentucky can be eligible for millions of dollars in funding from the federal government through the “Race to the Top” program.
This bill is a response to dramatically increase our standing in the eyes of the “Race to the Top” program that could bring Kentucky up to $200 million dollars in federal educational grant funds.
These measures are the key to improving our consistently low-performing schools. We are prepared to usher in a cultural change in school district achievement in Kentucky by offering the chance to students at low-performing schools to take part in a better learning environment.
Unfortunately, a committee amendment that would have allowed voluntary charter schools as another option " to replace a low-performing school, not in addition to it; after a referendum of the local school board and affected parents - failed.
Education reform is a constant process and we must pay attention to both struggling students as well as those who find it easier to excel in an academic environment. This bill qualifies Kentucky on both counts.
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 51, which addresses an unintended consequence of a legislative retirement bill that passed in 2005.
Some legislators were retiring from the legislative branch under a clause that allows annual retirement benefits to dramatically increase when they accept new positions in the judicial or executive branches.
If the House agrees to this bill, taxpayers will save about $1.4 million this year alone. Last year, the General Assembly passed a law preventing “double-dipping” whereby state and local government officials would retire and then come back to earn multiple pensions.
We must adhere to the same principles ourselves.
I look forward to hearing from you throughout the upcoming session. I would urge you to contact me by calling the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181 or going online at . I look forward to hearing your questions and comments.
Senator Tapp represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bullitt, Shelby and Spencer Counties.