Education

Protests across the state and the country against police brutality and structural racism have the attention of Kentucky education officials, including Ky. Lt Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. At Wednesday’s Kentucky Board of Education meeting, Coleman put forward several proposals, including statewide implicit bias training for teachers.

“I feel public education was made to meet the moment,” Coleman said, who is also the secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

“My first proposal is for the Department of Education to partner with schools across Kentucky to develop and implement a very needed implicit bias training for faculties across the across our communities,” she said.

Coleman noted that some districts, like Jefferson County Public Schools, have already created similar training for staff. But she said those professional development opportunities should be available in every school and district.

Coleman, who is white, also called for the department to ramp up efforts to recruit more minority teachers. State data shows that Black students make up 10.6% of Kentucky’s student population, but Black teachers make up just 3.3% of the workforce.

“We need to make sure that we develop a workforce in Kentucky and public education that reflects our student population and allows children like mine to look up to leaders in their lives that don’t look like them, as much as we give an opportunity to our minority students to see in themselves, leaders that shape their lives every single day,” Coleman said.

Coleman said she’s going to work to find funding for the Kentucky Academy of Equity in Teaching, a program that recruits teachers of color, and that went unfunded in the latest budget. She also proposed working with the state’s historically Black colleges and universities.

Additionally, she proposed adding a nonvoting student member to the state board of education.

Kentucky Board of Education members welcomed Coleman’s proposals.

“It’s action that is needed,” board chair Sharon Porter Robinson responded. “And your proposals, all three of them, I think address the problems we have been staring in the face almost forever.”

Interim Education Commissioner Kevin Brown also welcomed the proposals, and announced that the department is issuing new guidance Wednesday on talking about race-based stress and trauma in schools.

“As educators we must stand in solidarity against any and all acts of racism, disrespect and inequitable treatment of persons of color,” Brown said. “We must commit to listen to those seeking to be heard and ensure that our young people of color are valued and safe in school and in the community.”

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.