The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has been around since 1983. According to its website, it has “worked to study priority issues, inform the public and policy makers about best practices, and engage citizens, business leaders, families, students, and other stakeholders in a shared mission to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states for education excellence and equity for all children, from their earliest years through postsecondary education.”
I want to key in on the ‘engage citizens, business leaders, families’ section of that for a minute. The Prichard Committee has a new program called The Groundswell Initiative. The movement is based on the rationale that engaged communities—with families at the center—are vital to improving school outcomes, which is critical in a global economy developing jobs for the 21st century.
This is important in an environment in which economic development is no longer about the cheapest place to do business, but more about quality of life, including the quality of public education.
The Groundswell Initiative offers resources to communities that are interested in beginning a conversation about their schools. Of course, the work of the Danville-Boyle Early Childhood Alliance has already initiated part of that discourse. The Prichard Committee goes on to point out that “it is our expectation that robust, well planned community engagement of this nature can result in:
· Coordinated community response to increase student success.
· Greater public understanding of education issues and local priorities.
· Greater community commitment to equitable educational outcomes.
· Greater community ownership and investment in public schools.
· A common vision and shared commitment to pursue agreed upon action steps.
· Greater accountability for public funds.”
This is an opportune time throughout all of Kentucky to (re)engage in community conversations about public education for a number of reasons: 1) we are in the throes of a gubernatorial campaign that will set the tone for future conversations about public schools for the next four years; 2) the legislature will be developing a new biennial budget during the upcoming 2020 General Assembly Session that will determine where public schools will be placed among legislative priorities; and 3) two significant anniversaries concerning public schools will serve as reminders of where we were, how far we have come, and where we need to go.
The latter reference is to the so-called Rose decision in 1989 in which the Kentucky Supreme Court essentially ruled that the state’s method of funding public education was unconstitutional. The decision, which upheld a lower court ruling, led to passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, or KERA, in 1990.
With these landmark anniversaries as the background, it seems more than appropriate to rededicate community dialogue to assuring that our children—all of our children—and the community they call home have the resources they need to achieve a measure success. We need to move to a new situation in which third grade reading levels are a predictor of how many post-secondary careers will be launched, not how many prison beds we will need.
Join the Groundswell and become a part of the community conversation:
As always, Go Ads!
This article originally appeared in the April 23, 2019 edition of The Advocate-Messenger.