LEXINGTON -- Kentucky is aiming to hire a new education commissioner by June 30 following a national search that is getting underway this week, according to the proposal for a search firm obtained by the Herald-Leader.

Hiring a new commissioner will likely be one of the chief issues in Kentucky K-12 public education in 2020, with the all new state board of education discussing at a Friday meeting how they will choose a search firm.

The vacancy occurred when Commissioner Wayne Lewis resigned in December under pressure from the board appointed by new Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Beshear made good on a campaign promise that Kentucky would have new state board of education members and a commissioner who were supporters of public education.

Also at the Friday meeting, the new state board is set to decide on the Kentucky Department of Education's priorities for the 2020 General Assembly, first reviewing a list approved by the old board that includes all-day kindergarten, said Interim Commissioner Kevin Brown.

Both Lewis and former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin were criticized by many educators for their support of charter schools, controversial because of the fear that they will siphon dollars from traditional public schools. The first charter school group who wanted to open in Kentucky was recently denied by a local board and supporters and opponents have said they think charter schools are dead for now.

State Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, chair of the Senate Education Committee told the Herald-Leader that in "the 2020 Session I think you can expect to see that legislators are committed to continue fully funding our teacher's pensions, as the budget is our top priority this year."

"There will important collaboration in the weeks - between both chambers of the General Assembly as well as both parties -- ahead as we work towards an agreement for the 2020-2022 Kentucky Biennial Budget," Wise said. The safety of our students is a top priority, and I believe you will see that reflected in the final product. Undoubtedly, we as legislators have difficult decisions to make, but specifically improving the infrastructure around students and teachers -- such as school entrances, exits, metal detectors -- will be at the forefront of discussions revolving around the School Safety bill."

The Kentucky School Boards Association has estimated that school districts will need a minimum of $18 million to improve safety measures at school buildings and at least $121 million more each year for resource officers and counselors.

Eric Kennedy, KSBA director of advocacy, said this week that in the 2020 session, without new additional revenue sources and collections, the state will struggle just to maintain current investment levels, much less fund the school safety upgrades.

"The state simply cannot forgo even a single cent at this time of such great needs in fundamental, constitutionally mandated education programs," Kennedy said. "The key K-12 issues this year will be, above all, the budget, and making sure we enact a biennial budget that appropriates an adequate amount of state support to all our students and the educational and wrap around programs they, their families, and their educators depend on."

KSBA is also asking lawmakers to require a foster child's social worker to accompany them when enrolling in a new school, in order to share information among educators, social workers, and foster parents. The group is asking state social work officials and private child-placing agencies to inform each other when any of them close a home for foster children because of problems.

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