Student Advisory Council recaps Kentucky Education Summit, mental health roundtables

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Graphic reading: Commissioner's Student Advisory Council Virtual Meeting, Nov. 17, 2021

Members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) praised the student voice that was included in the 2021 Kentucky Education Summit during their meeting on Nov. 17.

The summit, which took place Nov. 1-2, was attended in person by more than 500 people and livestreamed on KET. Attendees heard from stakeholders from across the Commonwealth and country, including families, superintendents, teachers, public officials, education experts and students.

During the summit, Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass unveiled KDE’s new initiative, United We Learn: Investing in Kentucky’s Future, One Student at a Time. The collective effort is aimed at forming a bold and forward-thinking new direction to give the Commonwealth’s students the learning experiences they need and deserve by bringing educators, students, families, businesses and community members together. The goal is to build a new, student-centered education system that works for everyone.

SAC member Logan Justice, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Fayette County), created a video at the conference that highlights students that attended the summit.

Spandana Pavuluri, a junior at duPont Manual High School (Jefferson County), praised Justice for his work to give a clear voice to students.

“Paraphrasing can only capture so much of what people say, but giving their authentic words in interviews is wonderful,” said Pavuluri.

Bentley White, a junior at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, appreciated the video’s emphasis on student voice in conversations surrounding changes to the education system.

“It highlights that it’s a system for the students, by the students,” said White.

Solyana Mesfin, a senior at Eastern High School (Jefferson County), said she enjoyed seeing an increase in student participation at the summit.

“It’s an example for all adult-driven spaces to have students feel more comfortable,” she said.

On the first day of the summit, SAC members also presented what they learned from working on mental health roundtables hosted across Kentucky with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.

Soleila Elliot González, a junior at Ballard High School (Jefferson County), said recommendations gathered from students during the roundtables included giving students and staff mental health days, training for students and staff and a workshop for students to discuss their mental health needs as a group.

“A lot of times students become drained from the pressure and expectations of schoolwork on top of extracurriculars, so the big thing was being able to identify that students need space and breaks,” said González.

The student team working on these roundtables is now focusing on gathering recommendations from the roundtables to bring to policymakers ahead of the next legislative session in January 2022.

“The summit showed that students have a voice and an opinion on how they can improve the system,” said White. “They just need to be given the chance to voice their opinions.”

School Funding Task Force update
Robin Kinney, associate commissioner in KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations, provided an update to the council on the School Funding Task Force, which was created by House Bill 405 to look at how the education funding system works now and how it could be changed in the future.

The task force – which is preparing for the biennial budget request – consists of two state representatives, two state senators, the commissioner of education, three superintendents and three local school board members. Adopted recommendations include:

  • Full day funding for kindergarten;
  • Considering transitioning from average daily attendance to average daily membership;
  • Full funding for transportation;
  • Full funding for School Safety and Resiliency Act of 2019;
  • Expanding Family Resource and Youth Service Centers;
  • A school district impact statement;
  • Asking the Office of Education Accountability to research the cost of an adequate public education;
  • Referring KDE’s nonresident funding report to the Senate and House Appropriations and Revenue Committees; and
  • Asking the Legislative Research Commission to continue studying school funding during the 2022 interim session.

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