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October 31, 2019 12:01pm

GLI Event Recap: Broadening the Conversation around K-12 Education

A panel of education experts painted a nuanced picture of the challenges and opportunities shaping public and private K-12 institutions in Greater Louisville at GLI’s Capitol Connection event on October 30. 

Presented by Norton Healthcare, the event featured a panel discussion with House Majority Floor Leader Bam Carney, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio, and the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Superintendent of Schools Leisa Schulz. Panelists, responding to questions from GLI’s Vice President of Government & Public Policy Iris Wilbur, touched on a wide range of critical issues with the goal of broadening the conversation around K-12 education. While public and private schools are often thought about as competing entities with different sets of goals and objectives, GLI’s Capitol Connection event sought to illustrate shared challenges and opportunities and highlight the important work that public and private education systems are doing to educate children and prepare Greater Louisville’s future workforce. 

Some of the shared challenges discussed by panelists included educating economically-disadvantaged students, attracting and retaining teachers, and keeping children safe while at school. Dr. Pollio, for instance, noted that more than 60 percent of JCPS students are eligible for free-or-reduced lunch programs. To educate children from low-income households, he stressed the importance of maintaining consistently high-level instruction quality in all JCPS classrooms, regardless of the students’ economic background. Archdiocese Superintendent Leisa Schulz discussed the difficulties that come with attracting and retaining teachers. Private school teachers, Schulz noted, generally have lower salaries than their public counterparts. To address this issue, the Archdiocese has sought to boost starting salaries and works to cultivate educator pipelines within the larger Archdiocese community. On the topic of school safety, Leader Carney pointed to legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2019 to improve safety standards in schools throughout Kentucky. He noted that the 2020 session will focus heavily on finding funds to help local school districts meet these new standards. 

Public policy was a central theme throughout much of the discussion. At the outset of the program, GLI CEO & President Kent Oyler pointed to GLI’s work in past legislative sessions to champion legislation aimed at addressing teacher shortages in low-performing schools and empowering JCPS leadership to more effectively manage the state’s largest school district. This work, alongside GLI’s successes in supporting the innovative Academies of Louisville initiative, is already having meaningful impacts on education in the region. Oyler also highlighted some of GLI’s 2020 legislative priorities such as increased education funding, expanding access to early childhood education, and incentivizing increased opportunities for scholarship tax credits and tuition assistance. 

Panelists voiced opposing stances on the issue of scholarship tax credits. Leader Carney and Superintendent Shulz expressed support for the concept, arguing that a tax credit program would significantly increase options available to parents in Kentucky and level the playing field when it comes to educational choice. Dr. Pollio expressed several concerns about such a program, stating that scholarship tax credits could end up shifting resources away from public school districts, which would still be responsible for educating a large population of low-income students. 

GLI’s Capitol Connection event on October 30 serves as another example of the business community’s efforts to convene important discussions around education in Greater Louisville. As GLI Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff Sarah Davasher-Wisdom said at the event, education is at the heart of building a competitive homegrown workforce that can help attract new businesses and enable businesses already in our region to grow and thrive. Looking ahead to 2020, the Greater Louisville business community will continue bringing people together, stimulating important conversations, and working to make our regional education system the best in the nation.