Legislators must heed ‘perfect storm’ warning

December 6, 2013

Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday presented an eye-opening economics lesson to our state’s legislators earlier this week.

Holliday issued a warning of substantial teacher layoffs — possibly as many as 2,000 — and possible financial failure for up to 12 school districts unless school budgets receive some badly needed relief dollars.

In an effort to educate legislators, Holliday cautioned the state is headed for the “perfect storm” unless our state’s representatives and senators act quickly to restore some funding.

In what may be one of the most important quotes uttered by the commissioner in 2013, we urge legislators to listen and heed the storm warning:

“With sequestration, district bailout of the Kentucky School Board Insurance Trust (KSBIT), and budget cuts, we are headed for the ‘perfect storm.’ By next March or April, we predict 10-12 districts will fail to meet their basic financial commitment and we will see pink slips like we’ve never seen before.”

Holliday is correct to lecture the legislature on this matter. Voters across the state must jump on this campaign as well.

Educators have suffered for years now with major reductions from state and federal levels, being required to do much more to meet new and more stringent mandates with fewer people and less dollars and resources.

Many teachers have not received cost of living pay increases in years. In many schools, you will find textbooks literally “Duct taped” together. Many of the books have been in use for nearly a decade and are worn out and outdated. This list of concerns could go on and on, but hopefully this small sampling will get the attention of those needing to hear it the most.

Once considered a good profession, Kentucky lost an equivalent of 1,800 full-time teachers over the past three years. That number could soar with an additional 2,000 jobs lost this year, Holliday warns. Not only is this a deterrent for someone to consider the profession, but it is a major motivator for those low on seniority to look elsewhere for a career.

“These are real people, real layoffs and they can’t continue. We are losing our most important resource – our classroom teachers,” Holliday emphasized.

We totally agree. Our state leaders have to invest in our education system. That is a vital investment in our state’s future.

In eastern Kentucky, we are especially concerned by the state of education funding and the cuts that continue to hit year after year, and some even during the middle of the year when districts are already deep into their budgets.

Districts in our region must be able to attract quality candidates as classroom leaders. They are preparing our next generation of doctors, scientists, educators, lawyers and so on. Teachers do so much more than teach these days to help meet the needs of the complex lives our children face.

Continued cuts coupled with no pay increases, worn out textbooks and equipment and many other turnoffs have an adverse effect on staff morale.

We must have teachers who are innovative, technical savvy and well versed in the global economy. To be blunt, we need teachers who are on fire to prepare those in our region to compete for jobs in the global economy.

Eastern Kentucky has seen enough “pink slips” from coal and support industries. Neither the region nor the state can withstand more of the furloughs that take teachers out of the classrooms and places them on the unemployment lines.

We hope to see our region’s legislators step up and get a passing grade for addressing the funding crisis.