SREB OPENING REMARKS, CHAPEL HILL,

JUNE 28,1998

 

I hope you enjoyed this wonderful meal as much as I have and if I could have your attention for a moment, I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts and get our annual meeting under way.

We’ve gathered here in Chapel Hill for a very special occasion.

During the next two days we’ll be making many references to the fact that this is the 50th Anniversary year of the Southern Regional Education Board.

We’ll be looking back on those 50 years, and we’ll be looking forward.

We’ll focus on the accomplishments of the past and the challenges, the momentum and the ideas that will influence the future.

We chose Chapel Hill for this special occasion because the intellectual roots of the SREB are here.

In 1948 governors and legislators drafted and began ratifying the SREB Compact.

But long before that Professor Howard Odum and members of the University of North Carolina faculty were stirring the pot and carrying on a campaign for regional cooperation in the field of education.

Professor Odum’s writings and leadership greatly influenced the political leadership of the South and precipitated the formation of the Southern Regional Education Compact.

Tomorrow promises to be a day in which we’ll weave together the past, the present and the future.

Governor Baliles and President Broad of the University of North Carolina will begin our day with a dramatic look at just how much progress has been made since 1938 when President Franklin Roosevelt declared that the South was the nation’s No.1 economic problem.

Vice Chair Sally Clausen will focus our attention on educational progress for the past two years and the past decade in Educational Benchmarks 1998.

We’ll also have a presentation by a

person who voted for the SREB Compact when he was a legislator 50 years ago, who has chaired the Board, and has been a consistent supporter of this organization for its entire 50-year history.

This presenter will deliver fascinating results from a 1998 poll on education that asked identical questions which have been posed in polls conducted in the 1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's.

I’ll let you figure out who that presenter is.

Tomorrow afternoon we’ll travel to the William and Ida Friday Center where Bill Friday will lead a conversation about the South with distinguished Duke Professor John Hope Franklin.

And tomorrow evening we’ll gather for the 50th Anniversary Dinner. A number of very special guests will join us then. On Tuesday, we’ll hear about the Southern Growth Polices Boards’ Commission on the Future of the South, whose report is nearing completion.

We’ll also hear some very exciting news about the SREB’s new Southern Regional Electronic Campus.

We’ll conclude Tuesday afternoon with discussions on the middle grades and education accountability, with a closing banquet at the Carolina Club at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

One of the valuable things about this meeting is that we’ll have both the historical long-term view and the "here and now" problems that we as governors, legislators and educators must deal with.

While we’ll be celebrating SREB’s historical milestones, the value of SREB is obviously what it does for us today as we try each day to make the right decisions in our states to improve education.

Another important part of any SREB meeting is the opportunity for us to share our challenges, our efforts to deal with them, and an honest assessment of how we’re doing.

I’d like to set the stage for the conference by briefly discussing two issues that we’ve dealt with in Kentucky in the past year that Mark Musick and the SREB staff believe will be of particular interest to other states.

One of the issues deals with elementary and secondary education and the other with postsecondary education.

One of the fundamental elements of Kentucky’s 1990 K-12 Reform Program was school-by-school accountability.

A necessary component of accountability is assessment.

We, the supporters of KERA, the Kentucky Education Reform Act, have successfully withstood a major attempt in the recent session of our General Assembly, to do away with our accountability and assessment program by challenging the credibility of our testing system, a uniquely Kentucky test, designed to measure progress in our trail blazing education program.

Our reform program attempts to shift the focus of our schools from inputs to outcomes and not just outcomes that emphasize the accumulation of facts but outcomes that in addition to increasing the students reservoir of knowledge, increases the students’ ability to use or access knowledge.

KERA envisions, and in fact is precipitating, fundamental and dramatic change in the classroom and demands that these changes come about rapidly.

It’s not surprising that that kind of change would generate opposition, and it has.

This opposition has come from many different elements of our society.

Some of those opposed are genuinely concerned about the education of our children but a substantial part of the opposition is special interest groups with a hidden agenda.

These groups include people who want to discredit the public school system in order to promote vouchers for private schools, groups promoting particular religious views, and school personnel who just don’t want to change.

Add to that the normal political opportunists who find political advantage in being against anything without the responsibility of presenting an alternative, and you have formidable opposition.

We couldn’t deny that mistakes had been made implementing the program during the 8 years since its adoption.

Indeed, midcourse corrections were expected in a program that is blazing a new trail for public education in the United States.

Our opponents had successfully portrayed these adjustments as proof of failure and a justification for abandonment of the program and a new beginning.

Fortunately, at least in my opinion, we withstood the frontal assault on KERA and made the necessary adjustments without regressing on our commitment to bring about fundamental and substantial change in our schools at the classroom level.

In the end, a bipartisan coalition of Legislators, working with our administration, with the support of the business community and the state teachers association, prevailed. We, in essence, recommitted ourselves to stay the course and hopefully put to rest the movement to abandon what I believe is the most far reaching and progressive effort to improve elementary and secondary education in the nation.

As with any undertaking of this magnitude, financing is an important element.

During the recently concluded session of our legislature, we continued to increase funding for K-12 education over and above inflation.

We increased real dollar funding for many of the different strands of our complex program of state financial aid to local school districts.

And we invested a substantial portion of our non-recurring surplus in capital expenditure for education at all levels.

 

 

One of our most significant achievements in support of our reform effort was the investment of a $92-million of our surplus revenue in our school technology program.

This one time infusion of cash, when added to our regular biennial appropriation of $35-million to school technology, will fully fund our $623-million School Technology Program.

According to Tom Boysen of the Milken Family Foundation, Kentucky’s classroom technology program will be the most advanced in the nation and the first to become fully implemented.

I can tell you that I’m proud to be the governor of the state that’s leading the nation to a higher level in K-12 education, particularly in the field of classroom technology.

Such a role for Kentucky is unusual, considering our historic lack of appreciation for the value of education.

Improving our elementary and secondary schools is something that we as a nation must do.

But in our society, a high school education isn’t enough anymore.

K-12 is the foundation but we can’t live on a foundation alone.

We have to build a house on that foundation and today in the field of education, the house is postsecondary education.

That’s why, as a natural progression of our renewed commitment to excellence in education, we in Kentucky are now addressing our various education entities providing education after high school.

A little over a year ago in a special legislative session, we passed a comprehensive reform of our laws regulating these institutions and committed to dramatically increase our financial support for Post secondary Education.

Our recently concluded regular legislative session followed through on that commitment with a $100-million increase in recurring funding, a $400-million capital construction program, a $110-million university endowment program and a $120-million increase in student financial aid.

In return, we expect our postsecondary institutions to be more responsive to the needs of students and businesses and we expect them to be more market oriented.

We expect them to move ahead very rapidly in the field of distance learning and to be more dedicated to serving non-traditional students in non-traditional ways.

We’ve attempted to design a system that can and will operate more like a statewide system serving the needs of our people and our economy while still maintaining the autonomy of individual institutions and campuses.

Only time will tell if we’ve succeeded in doing that but we’ve clearly sent a message to our people and our educators.

We do understand that Kentucky’s fundamental problem is a low level of education among our people.

The leaders of our state, several of whom are here at this conference, understand that and are committed to changing that unflattering fact.

That’s the situation that existed all over the south when this organization was founded 50 years ago.

That was the reason that the Southern Regional Education Board was founded, and its success is the occasion we’re celebrating this week.

We have a very interesting program lined up for you over the next couple of days.

We’ll be looking at the past, evaluating the present and predicting the future.

I hope you’ll fin it informative and useful.

I’ve certainly enjoyed this past year that I’ve served as chair of the SREB and I thank the Board for this honor.

The experience has broadened my vision of education and increased my resolve to provide even more committed leadership to the cause of education in Kentucky so long as I serve that state as governor.

We in Kentucky are latecomers to the cause of educational excellence but we’re now devoted converts and so long as I’m Governor of Kentucky, education will be the Number One Priority for the executive branch and I know I’ll be joined by the leadership of our General Assembly who’ve been championing this cause for a decade or longer.

If I’m favored with a long life after I leave the Governor’s Office, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to continue to be a spokesperson for education, as have so many southern governors like Governor Riley, Governor Winter, Governor Baliles, Governor Sanford and the other governors who’ve continued to lead after their official duties were completed.

Yes, we have wonderful opportunities before us and it’s the vision and dedication and leadership of this group and our co-patriots throughout the south which will make our dreams come true and insure that we reach the destiny our people so richly deserve.

We’ve got a lot of work to do and this train’s going to run on time; We’ll start again promptly at 9:00 in the morning in this room, so this meeting is adjourned. See you at 9:00 in the morning.