Senate OKs bill for new system to review academic standards

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill aimed at creating a new system to review and change the state's academic standards.

The sweeping education bill, a top priority of Senate Republicans, cleared the chamber on a near-party line vote Wednesday. Democrats opposed it along with one GOP senator, Brandon Smith of Hazard.

Republican Sen. Mike Wilson says the measure would unburden teachers from time-consuming program reviews, letting them focus on teaching. Another key part of the legislation would create a multi-tiered system to review academic standards and assessments every six years for possible changes or replacement.

Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal says Kentucky is already making progress in education. He says lawmakers should take more time to study the issue and receive feedback from educators.

The measure heads to the Democratic-led House.


Statewide fairness law unlikely to get a vote this year

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A statewide anti-discrimination law will likely not be voted on in the Kentucky state legislature this year.

The House Judiciary Committee had a public hearing on the bill Wednesday. It would mandate people could not lose their job or their housing based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The committee did not vote on the bill because Democratic state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville said it did not have the votes to pass. Marzian said her bill was likely two or three years away from getting a vote on the floor of the state House of Representatives.

Marzian criticized Republicans and some conservative Democrats as "homophobes" for opposing the bill. Republican state Rep. Stan Lee and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo called her criticisms unfair.


Arrest warrant issued for missing Murray woman

MURRAY, Ky. (AP) — An arrest warrant has been issued for a missing Calloway County woman.

Kentucky State Police say they have obtained an arrest warrant for 31-year-old Jennifer Hicks alleging theft by failure to make required disposition of property over $10,000. Hicks has been the subject of a missing person investigation by the Calloway County Sheriff's Office since Feb. 9.

The Sheriff's Office says Hicks left her work around noon on Feb. 9 to check on her daughter. At about 12:45 p.m., her vehicle was seen on Kentucky Route 94, heading east.

Investigators say Hicks may be driving a white, 2010 Pontiac G6. She is 5 feet, 8 inches tall with brown hair and green eyes. Anyone with information on Hicks' whereabouts is asked to contact police.


Staff to ride school bus routes with behavior problems

(Information in the following story is from: The Courier-Journal,

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Officials with Jefferson County Public Schools say monitors will ride on bus routes that are determined to have behavior problems.

JCPS Chief Operations Officer Michael Raisor told The Courier-Journal that the district will require schools to provide a staff person to ride along in an effort to reduce student misbehaviors.

The move comes after John Stovall, president of the Teamsters Local 783, which represents about 1,000 bus drivers, told the newspaper that more than 60 percent of school bus drivers said they have felt unsafe on the job.

District records show that drivers submitted 2,763 official complaints during the first 70 days of the school year.

JCPS officials said the percentage of complaints is small compared to the 70,000 students who are transported to and from school each day.


Kentucky officials slow down state tax refund returns

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Department of Revenue has slowed down issuing state tax refunds because of concerns of identity theft and other forms of fraud.

Department of Revenue Commissioner Dan Bork says the agency is implementing new security features that will cause a delay in some refunds. Bork said he understands some taxpayers might be frustrated. He said the agency is doing everything it can to return taxpayer money quickly, but added the safeguards are necessary to protect the state from fraud.

State officials say more than 85 percent of people filed tax returns electronically in 2014. Officials say the department stopped $16.5 million in fraudulent refund requests.


Report shows 59 percent gain in degrees, credentials

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A new report shows the total number of postsecondary education degrees and credentials awarded in Kentucky grew by 59 percent over a 10-year period.

The report was released Tuesday by the state Council on Postsecondary Education. It shows that the total number of degrees and credentials rose from 39,203 awards in 2003-04 to 62,339 awards in 2012-13.

The council says that growth at Kentucky's public two-year, four-year and independent sectors ranked eighth nationally.

The report shows that Kentucky's largest 10-year growth, at 159 percent, was in undergraduate workforce certificates. The number of certificates grew by more than 12,000 awards between 2004-05 and 2013-14, according to the report.

Associate degrees also made significant gains with a 52 percent increase, while bachelor's degrees grew steadily at 24 percent.


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