Committee shares teacher recruitment and retention ideas, concerns

A teacher shortage crisis could be on the horizon, and the Kentucky General Assembly is already looking at ways to confront the issue.

Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Jason Glass testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Education on Tuesday to discuss ways Kentucky can improve teacher recruitment and retention efforts.

Glass said about 72% of teachers in Kentucky – about 42,000 – are at-risk of leaving the profession. Groups that are considered “at-risk” include teachers who are eligible to retire, teachers who retired and came back to the classroom, and teachers with less than five years of experience. 

Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Lexington, said the teacher shortage is a national trend Kentucky needs to “get out in front of.” One of his suggestions included recruiting unemployed, qualified teachers from other states.

“If we’re going to move Kentucky forward, we definitely need to be aggressive about pursuing those teachers,” Timoney added.

Glass’s presentation to the committee included a list of ideas to improve teacher recruitment and retention in the Commonwealth. Addressing the compensation crisis, increasing the desirability of teaching, paying student teachers, creating new scholarships and offering grants were on the list. 

Timoney, who is an educator, said student teaching was a difficult time for him since it was unpaid and student teachers are often not allowed to work other jobs.

“There’s a fiscal demand there that we need to address, so I support that idea,” Timoney said.

During the discussion, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, posed a different question. He asked Glass what the legislature can do to improve its relationship and perception among Kentucky teachers.

“I think there is often a perception within the teaching profession that the legislature doesn’t care and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Carroll said.

To keep fostering a positive relationship with teachers, Glass suggested the legislature continue to fund and increase money for education. Glass also mentioned some teachers feel like they’re being targeted or blamed for some of society’s problems. 

“The legislature really has to consider our teachers in Kentucky and our teachers that are in your communities. What is the language that we’re using around them and is this going to make them feel supported, valued, where we can keep attracting people into teaching and keep those great teachers in our communities?” Glass said.

One obstacle facing teachers is the Praxis teacher certification exam. Glass said the Praxis is expensive to take and can be difficult to pass.

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, questioned the relevancy of the Praxis and whether or not Kentucky can pursue other avenues to measure qualifications without sacrificing quality. Glass said there are an “abundance” of opinions on the Praxis and different ideas on alternatives. 

In closing, committee co-chair Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, asked her fellow lawmakers to be mindful when considering ways to make the teacher profession more accessible.

“Although I know we’re trying to meet the needs, I just want to make sure that we keep the quality and the standards that are expected for the teachers,” she said.

The next Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting is currently scheduled for July 15 at 10 a.m.

—staff reports

Judiciary committee discusses child support for children of DUI victims

A Tennessee state representative spoke with Kentucky lawmakers on Thursday about a new Tennessee law requiring people convicted of vehicular homicide due to intoxication to pay child support to each of the victim’s children.

Tennessee Rep. Mark Hall, R-Cleveland, testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary that Tennessee was the first state to pass this type of law, and at least 14 other states have proposed similar legislation.

Hall said he believes the bill, Tennessee House Bill 1834, is a “common sense approach” to addressing driving while intoxicated offenders.

“(The law) does two things. It protects our greatest resource, which is our children, and also holds the drunk drivers accountable,” Hall said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, asked Hall if a wrongful death lawsuit would offset some of the child support obligation or not. Committee co-chair Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, questioned how the bill requires the person to make the payments. 

“The person may be incarcerated, etc., and may not have any financials to (make payments). Some could say it’s an empty shell, but is there like a restitution order that would go with that?” Massey asked.

Hall had a similar answer to both questions. Tennessee’s law is open-ended, which gives the district attorneys and judges discretion to decide whether or not a child support order would be appropriate on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Payments, however, would not begin until one year after incarceration. Hall said there will be a formula in place much like the one used in divorce proceedings to determine payment amounts.

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, asked if a person who can’t afford to pay the child support would be charged with another crime.

“My concern is that we’re basically jailing people who have less money and not jailing people who can afford this verdict,” Berg said.

Massey said under Kentucky law, if the amount owed reached $5,000 and was a contemptible arrearage then the person could be put in jail.

Since the Kentucky General Assembly adjourned on April 14, legislators cannot file or take action on any new bills until the 2023 legislative session begins on Jan. 3. Massey said Thursday’s discussion with Hall was for the committee to find out more about Tennessee’s law as lawmakers consider whether or not they want to pursue similar legislation next year.

The next Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary is currently scheduled for July 7 at 11 a.m.

—staff reports

AG activates price gouging website

In response to the nationwide shortage of baby formula, Attorney General Daniel Cameron today activated the price gouging website and hotline.  Kentuckians can report suspected price gouging by visiting ag.ky.gov/pricegouging or by calling 502-696-5485.

“We’ve taken action to alert Kentuckians of suspected scams related to the nationwide baby formula shortage, and today we activated our website and hotline for Kentuckians to report suspected price gouging of these items,” said Attorney General Cameron.  “As parents, Makenze and I recognize the incredible stress and fear that the shortage is causing Kentucky families, and our office will use the full force of the law to ensure that the price charged for essential products like baby formula is no more than the law allows.” 

KRS 367.374 outlines the sale or rental of goods and services when a state of emergency is in effect, and states that no person shall sell or rent an item for a price “which is grossly in excess of the price prior to the declaration.” 

When filing a price gouging complaint, Kentuckians are encouraged to report as many details as possible about the suspected price gouging, including the name and address of the seller/retailer, the item purchased, the price of the item after the emergency declaration, and the price of the item before the emergency declaration, if known.  If a refund is sought, consumers should also keep receipts from the transaction to show proof of purchase.

Last month, Attorney General Cameron issued a consumer alert warning Kentuckians of suspected scams related to the nationwide baby formula shortage. 

To avoid becoming a victim of a baby formula scam, the Attorney General’s Office encourages Kentuckians to:

Purchase baby formula from known, reputable sources and, when possible, use a credit card to make the purchase.

Avoid paying for infant formula up front, if purchasing from an unknown source.

Be suspicious of sources advertising infant formula at prices that are too good to be true. If it seems too good to be true, it is likely a scam.

—staff reports

COVID cases continue upward trend

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Kentucky continued its upward trend during the seven-day period that ended on Sunday. While most other metrics also rose, the state’s positivity rate had a steep decline.

A total of 13,497 new cases were reported to state public health officials in figures released Monday. That’s up from 9,761 new cases during the previous week, and 7,140, two weeks ago. Kentucky has now seen a total of 1,378,045 cases of COVID-19, since the first case was reported on March 6, 2020.

Fourteen counties had more than 100 new cases in this latest report. Jefferson 1,837, Fayette 785, Hardin 241, Warren 211, Kenton 206, Madison 192, Boone and McCracken 181, Bullitt 140, Boyd 121, Daviess 111, Campbell and Scott 104, and Franklin 103.

There were 59 new COVID-19 related deaths during the past week, the same number as on the June 6 report.  There have been 16,063 Kentuckians lost due to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

The hospital census has also seen an across-the-board rise. Currently, there are 352 Kentuckians hospitalized with COVID, with 50 of them in the ICU and 25 on a ventilator. The previous week’s numbers were 299, 34 and 17, respectively, by comparison.

As a result, hospital bed usage, which includes all patients not just those with COVID, is currently at 75.93% of capacity statewide. That is down slightly from 76.15% in the June 6 report.  However, ICU beds are 75.07% utilized, up nearly a full percentage point, and ventilator usage is at 13.96%, a drop of over 1.5% from the 15.50%, recorded seven days ago.

Kentucky’s positivity rate, which is based on the ratio of all tests to those that came out positive, fell from 12.42% to 12.07%, the first drop in several weeks.  A week ago, it stood at 12.42%, which was its highest level since mid-February, when a big decline was underway that lasted until the middle of April.

The latest weekly Community Level map, which was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, indicates that while most Kentucky counties remain in the green or low category, 28 are now yellow, or medium level, which is up from 21 reported during the previous week.  However, 19 counties have reached red, or high community level of COVID. 

For the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic in Kentucky and more guidance, go to the Department for Public Health’s website, at http://kycovid19.ky.gov/.

—Kentucky Today

FBI to recruit in Louisville

For those who have considered a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI Louisville Field Office will host a special agent recruitment event at 5 p.m., on July 27, at their office in eastern Jefferson County.

The Bureau says as part of their efforts to attract highly skilled and diverse talent, this event will provide attendees with the opportunity to participate in discussions with current FBI special agents; and gain first-hand knowledge about the application process, the training and the rewarding career of an FBI special agent.

In order to attend this event, candidates must apply online at https://www.fbi.gov/contactus/field-offices/louisville/recruitment.

Attendance will be limited to guarantee personalized attention, so applicants should apply at their earliest convenience to secure an invitation. Those who are not invited to attend in person may be given the opportunity to attend virtually. Additionally, the FBI says Kentucky residents who do not reside in the Louisville area are encouraged to apply to attend online.

This event is open to citizens of the United States from all professional backgrounds, however, applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:

--Must be at least 23 years of age, but not more than 36 1/2 (some exceptions for military service apply).

--Applicants must possess a U.S.-accredited Bachelor’s degree at a minimum.

--Have at least two years of full-time professional work experience.

--Must have a valid U.S. driver’s license.

The FBI office is located at 12401 Sycamore Station Place, Louisville, KY 40299.

—Kentucky Today

Heat wave to bring record temperatures, heat indexes over 110

Kentucky is expected to see the first sustained heat wave of the year during the upcoming work week, with temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees, and high humidity resulting in heat index readings of 110 or more, in much of the state.

Heat advisories and even excessive heat warnings are possible in the coming days due to the high heat and humidity, with only widely scattered thunderstorms on Monday afternoon and evening, some of which could be strong to severe, to offer any relief.

Kentuckians will need to know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke as the state faces a heat wave (National Weather Service).

The National Weather Service says Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is the period where the hottest temperatures are forecast to take place, with the potential for some record high temperatures, as well as record warm morning lows.

Some of the cities where new record highs could be set during one or more days of the coming work week include Ashland/Huntington, Covington, Frankfort, Henderson/Evansville, Jackson, Lexington, London, Louisville, Paducah,

Weather Service personnel warn that the lack of relief in the evenings in combination with the high afternoon temperatures will make for dangerous condition for those with poor air conditioning, suffer from heat sensitivities, and work in the outdoors.

Forecasters say to practice heat safety wherever you are. That includes:

--JOB SITES. Stay hydrated and take breaks in the shade as often as possible.

--INDOORS. Check up on your neighbors, especially the elderly, sick and those without air conditioning.

--VEHICLES. Never leave children or pets unattended. Look before you Lock.

--OUTDOORS. Limit outdoor activities, find shade and stay hydrated. Make surer outdoor pets have shade and plenty of water as well.

Kentuckians will need to know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke as the state faces a heat wave (National Weather Service).

In addition, make sure you know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and know what actions to take. See the graphic included with this story.

If you’re looking for an end to the hot and humid weather pattern, the National Weather Service says models indicate that the passage of a cold front can happen between Thursday night into Friday morning with a brief respite from the blazing hot weather. However, looking at the weekend, the return of the ridge that is bringing the heat will guarantee another round of fair and hot weather with highs in the upper 80s to possibly getting into the 90s.

—Kentucky Today

Hepatitis cases reported Jefferson, other counties

Six cases of hepatitis from an unknown cause have been reported in Kentucky, in children between 8 months and 4 years old.

The cases, which are under investigation, have been reported in these counties: Jefferson, with two possible cases; Todd, Lyon, Bourbon and Meade, Sarah Ladd reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. 

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is not unusual for the cause of hepatitis in children to remain unknown, but a growing number of cases has prompted an investigation.

Nationally, health officials are looking into 274 potential cases of hepatitis with unknown origin in children in 39 states, according to the latest CDC data.

Health Commissioner Steven Stack said Thursday that while the cause is unknown, the cases are not related to the common causes of hepatitis or Covid-19 and could possibly be linked to the Type 41 adenovirus, which he described as a common virus that causes cold and flu-like symptoms.  He said two of Kentucky’s six cases have been linked to the adenovirus.

And while there is no cause for alarm at this time, Stack said. families with children who have yellow skin and eyes, vomiting and diarrhea and abnormal blood tests should seek medical care from a pediatric specialist in a timely fashion.

“This is not something for you to panic about, or to get excessively alarmed about but it is something for you to be careful about,” he said.

He added that while it’s important to get a diagnosis, there is no specific treatment for adenovirus and that severe cases could require hospitalization or ongoing evaluation from a pediatrician.

Stack said parents need to be aware that these are illnesses that can spread through the respiratory system or through body fluids and to take precautions.

“So for parents right now, the important thing is to constantly educate and train children to wash your hands, cover your cough, and make sure they’re vaccinated for all preventable diseases through the pediatricians office or the health department. And just to pay careful attention their child,” he said.

There have been 650 probable cases of hepatitis with unknown cause in children in 33 nations between April 5 and May 26 and at least 38 of them needed liver transplants and nine of them died, according to the World Health Organization.

Stack said none of the six children in Kentucky with this condition have needed liver transplants.

—Kentucky Health News