Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council shares thoughts on KBE’s legislative priorities

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Graphic reading: Commissioner's Student Advisory Council Virtual Meeting, Dec. 10, 2021

The Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) had the opportunity on Dec. 10 to provide feedback on the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE’s) legislative priorities for the upcoming 2022 Kentucky General Assembly.

Meredith Brewer, KDE’s director of education policy, presented the board’s priorities to the SAC during its regular meeting. The legislative priorities stem from five of the KBE’s annual goals, which are to:

  • Champion the Kentucky Coalition for Advancing Education’s efforts to reimagine learning in Kentucky as we co-create a vision with communities, foster local innovation and advance policy recommendations aligned with this work;
  • Amplify our voice in support of minority students, their families and minority educators by not only listening to their concerns and aspirations, but also pledging to leverage those concerns and aspirations to guide our actions. Continue to support and promote the Kentucky Department of Education’s efforts to foster a culture of anti-racism and further equity within our public schools;
  • In cooperation with the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB), advance policies and regulation reviews that strengthen the future teacher pipeline and increase the qualities and competencies of Kentucky’s educator workforce, emphasizing the critical need for increased representation of teachers of color;
  • Galvanize support of strong, developmentally appropriate early childhood education as a path to equity by taking steps toward fully funded full-day kindergarten and universal public preschool; and
  • Promote the creation and implementation of a statewide profile of a learner/graduate, identifying the knowledge, skills and dispositions all Kentucky learners need to become successful citizens. Utilize and strengthen key partnerships, including those with the Commonwealth Education Continuum and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, to inform this work.

The KBE’s 2022 legislative priorities include ensuring all students have access to a wide range of political, social and cultural perspectives in order to develop the critical thinking skills, interpersonal competencies and problem solving capabilities required for success in the workforce and in life; the recruitment and retention of an educator workforce that includes individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds; significantly increased funding for primary and secondary education; and increased funding for 2019 Senate Bill 1, including funding for an adequate number of mental health professionals in every school.

Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass said that although there are funds available the legislature could allocate toward KBE’s funding requests, there are many other interests throughout the state that also will be requesting those funds.

“It will be up to us to really advocate on behalf of education, along with the other associations that are in the state that also advocate for education,” said Glass.

Spandana Pavuluri, a junior at duPont Manual High School (Jefferson County), praised the priority for increased funding for counselors in schools, and said the benefits go beyond students’ mental health.

“Counselors can also help with postsecondary transition advising,” said Pavuluri. “They are so useful in so many ways, and I just think it’s important that students have the opportunity to get to know their counselor.”

Bentley White, a junior at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, said he would like to see increased transparency within schools between students and staff, as well as a better way to “inform KDE or their legislator about problems within the school system and how they recommend it be changed.”

Brewer and Glass encouraged the students to register their concerns by contacting their legislators’ offices and advocating for the issues that are important to them.

“Don’t underestimate the effectiveness and efficacy that you have as students,” said Glass.

KBE Ex-Officio Student Member
KDE’s chief communications officer Toni Konz Tatman discussed the upcoming selection process for the KBE’s next non-voting student member.

Solyana Mesfin, a senior at Eastern High School (Jefferson County), was selected last year to be the board’s first student member. Her term expires in Spring 2022.

The recently approved regulation, which is on track to become effective March 1 next year, requires that students be selected from each congressional district in numerical order. Since Mesfin is from Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District, the next student member will be a rising junior selected from the 4th Congressional District.

Once applications are submitted by the April 1 deadline, the SAC will review applications for the position and select three applicants to recommend to KBE.

The application process will be publicly advertised to Kentucky public school teachers and superintendents for further dissemination to students.

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