Ky. Reform Deadline Is Extended

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Kentucky's supreme court has given the legislature 90 additional days to devise a plan to restructure the state's education system.

By giving lawmakers until mid-July of next year to come up with a more equitable alternative to the existing system of public instruction, the court raised the likelihood that such a plan will be completed during a special session next spring and summer.

The court's decision last month modified its ruling of June 8, when it declared the entire system unconstitutional. (See Education Week, June 14, 1989.)

But last month's ruling also appeared to raise new issues in the complex case.

The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Robert F. Stephens, said that the General Assembly "must carefully supervise" the restructuring. In the original opinion, only "the state" was designated to fulfill that role.

The change left some state officials wondering about the exact extent of the legislature's power over education.

Judge Stephens' majority opinion also reiterated the court's belief that the legislature may create local school districts empowered to raise their own taxes.

Some lawmakers and state officials, including John Brock, the state superintendent, have said that the provision defeats the purpose of rebuilding the school system because it fails to address the issue of statewide equity in funding.

But Robert F. Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an education watchdog group, downplayed that concern. The reality of school-finance systems nationwide, he said, is that some school districts are able to raise more money than others.

"I think the legislature's challenge is to come up with a minimum level of spending [that ensures that] all children have an adequate opportunity," he said.--pw

Vol. 09, Issue 06

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