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by Graham Shelby

Nearly 300 Kentucky schools have earned special recognition from First Lady Michelle Obama and the US Department of Agriculture for efforts to fight childhood obesity.

Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! program just completed its first year and in that time more schools from Kentucky than other state have met the requirements of the U.S. Healthier Schools Challenge by making improvements in the nutritional value of school meals and the quality of physical and health education. Those schools are eligible for financial rewards of up to $2000.

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan says Kentuckians should be commended for the achievement, but childhood obesity is too big and too complicated to be solved by a federal program.

“We need parents to be saying this is a priority for us. We need school boards and we need local committees. Everyone needs to be a part of this game. It’s not going to be solved in Washington. It’s got to be all hands on deck,” she says.

Seventy-seven Louisville elementary schools are among those in Kentucky that received special recognition for following the U.S. Healthier Schools Challenge.

Despite that, Kentucky has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation. According to one study, 37 percent of Kentucky’s children are overweight or obese.

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Governor Steve Beshear spoke at the Kentucky School Board Association’s annual conference Friday. He encouraged the audience to support a bill that would raise the dropout age to 18. Similar legislation stalled in the General Assembly last year.

Beshear made other comments on education in his speech, and you can listen to his remarks here (mp3).

Senate President David Williams and House Appropriations Chair Rick Rand spoke at the Louisville forum Wednesday.

Here is the WFPL story, in which Rep. Rand says the Arizona-style immigration bill and the neighborhood schools bill are unlikely to go further than the State Senate. JCTA President Brent McKim also comments.

Here is the full audio of the forum (mp3).

Kentucky Secretary of State (and former Senate candidate) Trey Grayson is resigning to become director of the Harvard Institute for Politics. Governor Steve Beshear has appointed Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker to replace Grayson.

Here are the details.

The bill that would dismantle Jefferson County Public Schools’ student assignment plan has passed the state Senate. But Superintendent Sheldon Berman doesn’t think it will clear the House.

Senator Dan Seum‘s (R-Louisville) neighborhood schools bill–which would end Jefferson County Public Schools’ student assignment plan–has cleared the Senate Education Committee and could be up for a vote by the full Senate Friday.

Let’s file this in the “better late than never” folder

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts president Michael Kaiser‘s name has come up in several stories about the Louisville Orchestra. The musicians had tried to get Kaiser to visit Louisville to share his knowledge about running arts organizations.  Kaiser has turned around other ensembles, and it was thought that his insights would help the orchestra. The management and the musicians never agreed on Kaiser’s visit, and it didn’t happen. But late last month, Kaiser wrote a column for the Huffington Post.

It’s called What I Want for Christmas. Here are some highlights:

1. Board members of arts organization who remember their missions. While most arts organizations have missions that relate to bringing arts and arts education to their communities, many board members really believe that the missions of their organizations are to break even. They believe that cutting budgets and doing less is satisfactory as long as the budget is balanced.

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2. Arts leaders who focus on training the next generation of arts leaders. We are nearing a dangerous point when an entire generation of arts leaders will retire.

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3. Political leaders to remember that almost 6 million Americans are employed in the arts, that we are a main motivator of tourism and that we generate billions of dollars of economic activity.

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4. Superintendants of schools, school board members and principals who remember that we live in an economy far different from the one when they were in school.

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5. Arts organizations that are willing to work together on projects of great impact that surprise and enchant our communities. We are far too competitive with each other. Yet in many communities, we have failed to create broad visibility for our collective work. This hampers our fundraising and ticket selling activities.

One month after a General Assembly committee began reviewing for-profit colleges, Attorney General Jack Conway has announced another investigation.

Georgetown College professor Dr. Robert Bevins has sent a letter to Governor Steve Beshear regarding the planned Ark Encounter creationist theme park and the state tax incentives Beshear says the park will receive.

From the Teaching Sapiens blog:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the severe injury done to the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s reputation. It is a sad day when Kansans can look down on Kentucky, that at least Kansas is not trying to attract an amusement park catering to the unscientific concept of young earth creationism.

Worse still, Kentucky is offering tax incentives to attract further development by Answers in Genesis, a group that can only further decrease our reputation as a state that values higher learning.

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It wouldn’t be a slap in the face to all of my fellow alumni of the University of Kentucky, devaluing the doctoral diploma that I proudly display in my office and  denigrating the verifiable and evidence based science taught in our land grant universities and private colleges if Kentucky wasn’t looking to help fund an ethically bankrupt amusement park. The presence of the Creation “Museum” is embarrassment enough, but to know that my tax dollars may help to fund its expansion, when researchers at UK and University of Louisville face tight budgets while performing ground breaking scientific research, it is simply too much.

Today, you helped to tarnish my hard won degree with the scorn of the academic community. In an instant, my years of scholarship became worth a tiny little bit less. I will have to defend my state as I once did as a child. “Yes, we wear shoes,” becomes, “No, we aren’t all stuck in a scientific stone age.”

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Ignorance is bliss to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, ignorance and fear of a wrathful and genocidal god. I wonder, shall the amusement park include a wave pool filled with the simulated bobbing bodies of the dead, as the Museum cheerfully displays the Genesis account of the Great Flood via computer animation and artistic dioramas of the wholesale slaughter of the world?Having been to this “Museum”, I can say that no depth is too low to subject young minds to in order to scare them away from inquiry and learning.

What shall I expect next from the government of our fair Commonwealth? Should UK and the University of Louisville begin to offer degrees in astrology? Will the UK medical school offer coursework in homeopathy? Perhaps you could establish a Department of Divination to direct the government’s future goals and to offer you a morning horoscope? Or should I expect some other discipline of magical thinking to be given the stamp of approval of the state?

Why did you choose to encourage what can only harm our state’s reputation? Was it a promise of 30 pieces of silver (a temporary increase in construction jobs) to betray our good name?

You can read the whole letter here.

(h/t to B&P)

The Jefferson County Board of Education has voted 5-2 to not renew superintendent Sheldon Berman‘s contract.

Board members Linda Duncan and Steve Imhoff were the two votes in favor.

WFPL will have more on this story as it develops.

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