LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Kentucky Business-Education Roundtable will push for key initiatives to support education and workforce development during the 2020 General Assembly, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce CEO Ashli Watts said in December.

The Roundtable, convened by the Chamber, is a group of public- and private-sector leaders working collaboratively on a long-term plan to fuel improvements in the state’s education attainment and workforce quality.

The group identified four central goals in its initial report, Striving to be Top Tier for Talent:

— Invest in early childhood, to give kids a solid start

— Reinvent high school, to make a diploma relevant for the modern economy

— Ensure every adult obtains a marketable degree or credential

— Engage employers to define needed skills and develop talent supply chains

From that report, the Roundtable has identified priority recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly. It also noted the need for adequate resources to fund improvements.

“The Roundtable supports greater investments in programs that will build a stronger future for the state and its citizens and attract more people and businesses to ensure the state’s long-term economic viability,” Watts said.

"It is clear that the Commonwealth cannot reform or cut its way out of current funding challenges. The Roundtable supports tax reform that improves Kentucky’s competitiveness while producing net new revenue to support education and a modern workforce.”

Watts, speaking at the Kentucky Chamber’s 2020 Legislative Preview Conference, also noted that the Roundtable will continue to pursue other initiatives identified in its report in addition to the initial priorities.

The Roundtable’s legislative focus for the 2020 General Assembly will include:

1. Create, fund and deploy a branded statewide communications and marketing campaign to deliver relevant messages about education’s value at all levels with specifics addressing early childhood, postsecondary access and affordability, preparation for successful adulthood, real world implications, family support, employer engagement and others. This will be a shared, public-private initiative covering multiple years. The 2020 budget request will be $1 million in FY 2020 and $2.5 million in FY2021.

2. Increase funding to provide greater access to state child-care assistance for working parents, raising eligibility from 160% of the federal poverty level to 200%. The funding request is to be determined.

3. Fully fund (with state appropriations) all-day kindergarten with the provision that districts repurpose current locally provided kindergarten funding to 0-to-third grade programs. The approximate budget request is $140 million per each year of the biennium for local districts.

4. Support reinvestment in postsecondary education through the performance funding model and additional funding for Work Ready scholarships and student financial aid through the need-based College Access Program and Kentucky Tuition Grant program. The funding request is to be determined.

5. Continue criminal justice reforms, such as reclassifying drug possession as a misdemeanor and reforming the bail system, as workforce initiatives. Funding needs will be determined by the scope of the reforms.

6. Expand the Talent Pipeline Management program under the existing public-private partnership and support program funding in the amount of $500,000 a year for each year of the biennium.

The Roundtable also will support initiatives that are expected to originate in the General Assembly, including:

— The creation of an Early Childhood Education Task Force

— Third-grade reading and math proficiency legislation that relies on research and evidence of best practices and outcomes. Funding would be from redirected state grant money.

Additional, non-legislative initiatives by the Roundtable will include:

— Update state credentialing programs to streamline the process, upgrade skill levels, define specific areas of need, increase professionalism of workers/providers, connect employers directly with educational institutions and practitioners.

— Convene a task force of human resource, employer and education representatives to determine what information employers need to understand high school graduates’ knowledge and abilities and to determine how that information should be disseminated.

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