Whitesburg KY

Retired teacher thanks lawmakers for bipartisan work on taxes, KERA

To the Editor:

Although the picture on the front page of last week’s Mountain Eagle shows two local state senators, Johnny Ray Turner and Brandon Smith, with their backs to citizen viewers, the picture does not tell the truth.

Not all legislation or legislators are bad. The truth is these two state senators and most state representatives and senators bravely faced the future on behalf of our children and grandchildren and our active and retired school employees.

In a spirit of unusual bipartisanship, the 2009 Kentucky General Assembly passed stopgap taxes on “evil” alcohol and tobacco to keep from cutting Medicaid, KTRS, the teachers’ retirement system, and SEEK, the state program that partially equalizes funding for Kentucky schools including paltry one-percent raises for Kentucky teachers.

Even more importantly for the future, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1 (mainly in the form of House Bill 508) that continues the progress of KERA, the Kentucky Education Reform Act, by responsibly replacing the lengthy and complicated CATS (Commonwealth Accountability Testing System) testing and excessively reworked and regraded student writing portfolios with revised Kentucky learning standards, portfolios, assessments, and accountability for our students and schools.

It is almost 20 years now since Tom and Pat Gish agreed to let me write a series of articles for The Mountain Eagle on the new KERA law. I had been president of the Kentucky Education Association and the Letcher County Teachers Organization, and now I am a retired teacher who lobbied the General Assembly three days a week for KEA-Retired.

In Frankfort I saw old faces in new roles like Rep. Harry Moberly, toppled House Appropriations and Revenue chair and chief creator of KERA and House Bill 508, new House Speaker Greg Stumbo, veteran Senate President David Williams, and silver-haired Governor Steve Beshear work well together and with newer legislators like House A&R chair Rick Rand and new House Education chair Carl Rollins, and even with educator freshman representatives like Belcher, Carney, Stevens, and Stone, who make me sorry again that I failed in the 1980s to win a seat in the Kentucky House.

The 2009 Kentucky General Assembly has made a new beginning on education reform. The next step needs to be comprehensive tax modernization that will provide additional and fairer funding for Kentucky’s future, especially for Kentucky’s schools, students, and teachers, and even us retirees. They are already talking about more retirement “reform” for 2010.

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