Our investments in education are worthwhile – A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand – July 20, 2015

Our investments in education are worthwhile – A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand – July 20, 2015

FRANKFORT – Next month, Morehead State University will open what will be the state’s second specialty high school geared toward our best and brightest students.

The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics will ultimately be home to 120 high school juniors and seniors from across the state, all of whom will have a chance to earn up to 60 college credit hours over a two-year period.

The school will be similar to the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, which began eight years ago on the campus of Western Kentucky University and has since been named the nation’s best high school by Newsweek.  Thanks to a recent increase in state funding and a new round of private donations, its student body is growing from 120 to 200.

As you might expect from a school that sets such a high standard, its students are in high demand.  This past year’s graduating class – 61 altogether – received $4 million in scholarships, and the 30 universities they are attending this fall range from several across Kentucky to MIT, Princeton, Vanderbilt and Stanford.

In addition to these two high schools, Kentucky is also home to several other programs designed to help many of our high school and middle school students excel.  Most are held in the summer and are based at our public and private college campuses.

The Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP) is perhaps the best-known of these.  It began in 1983 and now serves 1,100 students annually who tackle academic subjects both in and out of the classroom.  The students also take on such public service projects as helping a community coordinate a Fourth of July parade.

An annual survey of past Governor’s Scholars shows that the program does a great job of keeping these students in the commonwealth for college.  For the past decade, that figure has hovered around 80 percent.

The Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts is just a few years younger than GSP.  It gives sophomores and juniors a chance to focus on nine different artistic areas, from writing, dance and drama to music, singing and the visual arts.

According to the organization, nearly all of its students are far above average academically as well.  Its participants receive scholarships amounting to nearly $70,000 apiece, and they have an ACT score that is seven points above the national average.

The Governor’s Minority Student College Preparation Program also dates back to the 1980s and helps middle-school students be better prepared for high school and beyond.  Based across Kentucky’s public postsecondary systems, it reaches students in the summer as well as throughout the school year.

Beyond being home to the Gatton Academy, Western Kentucky University also has long been the site for two other academically centered programs aimed at younger teens.  Those are called the Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY) and the Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS).

The newest program with the state’s backing is the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs, which began two years ago with nearly 50 students at Georgetown College.  This annual program is ideal for students interested in starting a business or getting an idea off the ground, and they learn from teachers, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.

As these programs show, summer doesn’t mean time away from school for many of Kentucky’s students.  By tapping into their interests, teaching them in a non-traditional way and providing a glimpse into what college will be like, we’re giving them opportunities that take full advantage of their talents.  There is no doubt that the relatively small investment by the state has been paid back many times over.

If you would like to let me know what you think about this issue, or anything else affecting the state, please contact me by writing to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.          

To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer