Local Community Education programs across Kentucky will have less of a voice in state government following a recent move by Gov. Matt Bevin to abolish the state’s Council for Community Education, says Debi Wade Jordan, the leader of Bowling Green’s program.
“We’ve just lost our voice,” said Jordan, executive director of the local nonprofit.
Earlier this month, Bevin abolished the council and transferred its duties to the Kentucky Board of Education through an executive order.
The order made changes to multiple state education boards and councils, including changes in membership requirements for the Kentucky Board of Education. However, the Council for Community Education was the only state board to be abolished altogether.
According to the order, the council serves as an advisory body to the Kentucky Board of Education in making recommendations as to how grant funding for Community Education should be distributed.
“Given that the Board of Education reviews the recommendations prior to disbursing funds, the transfer of these duties will promote greater efficiency, economy and improved administration,” Bevin wrote in the order.
Elizabeth Kuhn, the communications director for the governor’s office, echoed that view in a statement responding to an inquiry from the Daily News.
“The abolishment of the Council for Community Education will ensure that grant funds for community education are disbursed in an efficient and streamlined manner,” Kuhn wrote in an email. “The Council served as an advisory body for the Board of Education regarding grant disbursements. However, the Board of Education reviewed and approved all grant recommendations, making the Council’s role in the grant process duplicative.”
However, Jordan said the advisory council’s membership drew from 10 geographic regions across the state.
Currently, each Community Education program has the flexibility to respond to the needs of the community it serves, Jordan said. She added that the council existed to inform both the Kentucky Department of Education and the Governor’s Office on broad issues Community Education could assist with, such as the huge demand for before- and after-school programs for students.
“It’s very distressing to us that the governor apparently does not value that information or think that it’s important,” Jordan said.
She likened the council’s abolishment to a school principal who doesn’t consult with parents.
“It’s important to hear what the communities think, what the constituents think,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Community Education has found itself on the chopping block following action from Bevin. In January, the program was included in a list of 70 state programs targeted for elimination under Bevin’s version of the two-year state budget. The General Assembly later had to reinstate funding for Community Education in the state’s budget, Jordan said.
Jordan said she’s not sure whether the move signals Bevin’s displeasure with the program or if he’s unfamiliar with the benefits it brings to communities across Kentucky.
“It’s hard to reach the governor,” she said. “That’s why you have these councils.”
Bowling Green’s program offers more than just before- and after-school programs.
Alice Tarnagda, Community Education’s enrichment coordinator, said the program has had success in helping the local immigrant and refugee population become more financially independent through its Hand Up, Hand Back program.
The program has helped place participants in local jobs, pursue education programs or allowed them to take enrichment courses that teach computer literacy or money management skills, Tarnagda said.
According to the Courier-Journal, the Bevin administration will likely write a bill based on the order for lawmakers to consider in next year’s lawmaking session.
Jordan said her organization will be reaching out to both current lawmakers and newcomers running for office.
“Thankfully, we have current legislators who are very supportive of Community Education, and that’s not just here, it’s across the state,” she said.