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Stumbo links new dollars for higher ed to making UPike a state school

By Jack Brammer — jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo has not given up on his goal of making the University of Pikeville a state institution.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Monday he would not support increased funding for higher education in Kentucky “until there is a resolution of equity for kids in Eastern Kentucky.”

He said that means improved access to higher education for students in Appalachia, and “the best option, in my opinion, of doing that, is making UPike a four-year state school.”

He acknowledged that he would be open to discuss other options, such as providing more state scholarships for students in the region to attend UPike, “but its joining the state system is my personal preference.”

The issue of UPike becoming the state’s ninth public university, Stumbo said, “will come up again and again, in my opinion, until it is realized.”

Toyota to donate $115,000 for early childhood education centers

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Toyota Motor Manufacturing will donate $115,000 to establish 10 early education academies geared toward helping parents better prepare children for school.

Wil James, Toyota Motor Manufacturing president, said at a press conference at the state Capitol Tuesday that Toyota intends to expand that investment to $450,000 over the next five years. The Toyota Bornlearning Academies will teach parents through workshops and other educational material how to better prepare their preschool and kindergarten children for school.

Beshear reorganizes career, technical schools in Kentucky

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The state is tweaking its technical and career education system to make it more streamlined.

Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday that would move two career and technical education systems — one run by local school districts — and a second that includes 53 state-run technical centers — under the same umbrella to create a unified system at the middle and high school level.

Currently, local high schools can operate career and technical programs using local and state funds. Those programs report to the Kentucky Department of Education. The state also has 53 technical centers for 123 school districts that are paid for through state funds. That career and technical program reports to the Department for Workforce Investment.

The executive order moves both systems to the Kentucky Department of Education.

Family Foundation decries U of L officials’ stance on Chick-fil-A

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A conservative group called the University of Louisville politically “intolerant” and “Orwellian” on Monday after school officials said they may oust Chick-fil-A from campus because of comments made by the restaurant’s president.

The Family Foundation, a non-profit conservative group, said U of L was “turning its nose up” at Kentucky taxpayers who voted overwhelmingly in 2004 for a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told a religious publication earlier this month that his company backs the traditional family unit.

Last week, U of L President James Ramsey and provost Shirley Willihnganz issued a statement saying they personally did not plan to eat at Chick-fil-A anytime soon. Willihnganz later said the university was talking with its food vendor to determine if the university could cancel its contract with Chick-fil-A, which has a restaurant in the university’s student center.

Conway announces $2.5 million settlement against GIBill.com for deceptive practices

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced at a news conference in Washington Wednesday that a Web site designed to steer veterans to for-profit colleges must pay a $2.5 million settlement and turn over the site to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The settlement stems from Conway’s investigation of alleged deceptive recruiting practices by some for-profit colleges. It is part of an agreement with 20 state attorneys general that was filed Wednesday in Franklin Circuit Court.

Kentucky is slated to receive about $325,000 of the $2.5 million settlement.

QuinStreet Inc. operated GIBill.com, which steered veterans to mostly for-profit colleges that were clients of QuinStreet, according to information provided by Conway’s office. The site led users to believe it was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, according to Conway.

State attorneys general and consumer advocates have said for-profit colleges increased their recruitment of veterans after Congress passed a robust GI Bill in 2008, making billions of dollars available to veterans and service members.

Stumbo seeks spending records for Morehead State officials

By Linda B. Blackford
lblackford@herald-leader.com

The sponsor of a bill to make the University of Pikeville a public school has requested spending records for the president and Board of Regents of Morehead State University, which is vigorously opposing the measure.

A Feb. 15 request under the Open Records Act from House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, asks for all records from the past five years showing expenses incurred by Morehead President Wayne Andrews, his staff and all 11 regents.

The request asks for expenses related to travel, vacations, conventions, recreation, motor vehicles, country clubs or other memberships and any other items of value.

In addition, the request asks for documents related to the “improvement of the educational opportunities” in the 12-county region of southeastern Kentucky that UPike would serve instead of Morehead.

Neither Stumbo nor Andrews was immediately available for comment.

Campaign to turn University of Pikeville public moves to legislature

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT —Saying 12 southeastern Kentucky counties are underserved by the state’s higher education system, former Gov. Paul Patton and two lawmakers made their first pitch Tuesday to legislators about turning private University of Pikeville into a publicly funded school.

Patton, Pikeville’s president, told lawmakers Tuesday that access to the state university system is inadequate in the 12 major coal-producing counties of southeastern Kentucky — Bell, Breathitt, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Leslie,Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Perry and Pike.

“Our students attend the state universities at one-third the rate of the rest of the state,” Patton said. “The students and the parents of southeastern Kentucky are inadequately and unfairly served by the present system of state universities.

“This is not the fault of the current eight universities. The problem is that there is no existing state university which can adequately serve this region because there is no current state university in this region.”

House panel modifies Senate dropout bill in hopes of a compromise

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Local school districts would have the option of keeping students in school until age 18 through 2016 and then the higher dropout age would become mandatory statewide under a bill a state House panel approved Tuesday.

House Education Chairman Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said the measure was a compromise between a House bill that would raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 and a Senate bill that would give schools the option of raising the age.

Rollins’ committee substitute for Senate Bill 109 cleared the committee even though 10 members did not vote. The only “no” vote was cast by Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield, who said he preferred the original Senate bill that gave school districts the local option of raising the dropout age.

The bill now goes to the full House.

House approves bill to raise dropout age to 18

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation Thursday that would raise the high school dropout age from 16 to 18.

The House voted 87-10 in favor of House Bill 216, which would increase the dropout age to 17 in July 2016 and 18 in July 2017.

Opposition came from House Republicans, who said it will cost too much to keep children who don’t want to learn in school. This is the fourth time in three years the measure has passed the Democratic-led House.

The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, which has not granted the measure a hearing in the past two years. The Senate approved its own dropout prevention bill on Feb. 8. That proposal would allow county school boards to decide their own dropout age.

Hearing on University of Pikeville set for Feb. 21

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@hearld-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A proposal that would add the University of Pikeville to the state university system will get a hearing before the House Education Committee on Feb. 21, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday.

Once all of the facts about the proposal are public, Stumbo said he believes there will be more support for the measure, which has received mixed reactions from county officials in coal-producing counties.

Under House Bill 260, the now-private UPike would receive coal-severance tax money from a fund normally used for economic development projects in 12 Eastern Kentucky counties. Several county judge-executives and magistrates have voiced concerns about taking money from the multi-county fund used for such projects as expanding water lines.

The university would deed over all of its land and buildings to the state, which would use coal-severance money to decrease tuition from about $17,000 this fall to about $7,000.

A study on the feasibility of bringing UPike into the state university system is scheduled to be completed by March 15. The House Education Committee is not expected to vote on the proposal until after that report is released.