Senate ed chair: Aligning new state school progress measures with federal ESSA law to be "huge priority" in 2017 session; wants to explore voluntary master's degrees for teachers

Bowling Green Daily News, Oct. 31, 2016

TALK OF THE TOWN: Q&A with Mike Wilson
Staff report

State Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, has held the 32nd District seat in the General Assembly since 2011 and sits on several committees, including as chairman of the Senate Education Committee. He is director of sales and marketing for Davert North America, a supplier to the automotive manufacturing industry with a plant in Bowling Green. Wilson, a native of Mississippi, previously worked for 20 years with Christian Family Radio in Bowling Green, mostly as general manager.

In general, what have you thought about this election cycle?

I have never seen one like it. I didn't think I would ever see a day where someone could run for president after mishandling classified documents to such a degree without any consequences. I served in the U.S. Marine Corps and had a secret clearance and if any one of us had done something closely remote to that, we would have had a court martial and likely served time. Also, I don't like the focus on personal attacks versus talking about what your policies will be that will move our country forward.

What has to happen after the election for the country to move forward?

We desperately need to balance our budget and begin to pay off our debt. We also need to work on policies that will make health care more affordable, like removing boundaries to sell across state lines and create more competition. We need a national focus, I believe, on career and technical training to include computer programming in our school system. Currently we are at shortage of workers with necessary skills for high paying careers in manufacturing and computer programming. If companies don't have the skilled workers they need then they will not continue to come here or expand and they will go to where they can get them. The Supreme Court appointments need to be judges that will effectively interpret cases by the Constitution rather than practice the judicial activism we've seen in legislating from the bench in cases. So education, workforce development, our debt, true affordable health care and jobs.

What are some of the state Senate GOP's goals for the next legislative session?

Education will be a big focus again in the Senate. We tried last year to align our law with the new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces the old No Child Left Behind, which was very unrealistic in its timeline and requirements. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a hearing in the House of Representatives. That will again be a huge priority since it allows states to take control of their own education standards, it repeals all requirements for states to implement common core standards, and provides flexibility and returns control to the state and district level for education. It will free our teachers to teach without all the bureaucratic reporting they have to do now and allow districts to innovate more.

Also, pension transparency has been a huge focus for us every year and we have been unable to get the house to go along with that. So once again, we will be passing bills that require pension transparency in all pension systems in Kentucky once again including legislative pensions.

Those are two I know for sure but normally we will have our top 10 and they will be decided when we caucus in December.

What is something that you personally want to focus on in the session?

• Pro-life issues are always a focus for me. I have sponsored and cosponsored legislation for Pro-life issues and will continue to do so. I was glad we finally passed the Informed Consent law this past year but there is more we can do.

• Since I am chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I will be focusing on the education law I mentioned for starters.

• Another education issue is master's degree requirements for teachers. Currently we require our teachers to pursue their master's degree or start within a certain time period from becoming a teacher. We require them to spend $30,000.00 to get a master's that we don't pay for and I don't think that's right considering what we pay them. We don't require that in any other state job. We should still keep all the incentives for getting a master's, such as pay increases, but make it voluntary since we don't pay for them and we don't pay them as much as a kid getting out of high school with a welding certificate can make year one with no debt.

•I was very disappointed that a supplemental appropriation bill I passed in the Senate for our veterans nursing home was not even voted on in the House. I will once again be filing that bill and hopefully we can move that forward for our south central Kentucky-area veterans.

•There are a couple of other things I am working on but haven't fully vetted it all yet so I'll have more to share on that in December and January.

No longer a newcomer in the legislature, what are some pieces of advice you might offer to anyone who gets elected for the first time next week?

Take some time to get to know the process and the key role players in the legislative process before filing a bill. It's one thing to file a bill but another to get one passed. Also talk to senior members and listen to their experience. I was very fortunate and had about three silver-haired senators, who are now retired, who helped me tremendously to get a good start. It takes many steps to accomplish something becoming law. Also get to know the staff that work at the LRC who will be working in the offices and committees because they will be working with them on their needs. We have an incredible staff.

What is it like to have a family with such musical and theatrical talent?

My family is amazing. We all love the theatre and music. They all took instrument lessons growing up and were involved in the Public Theatre of Kentucky children's program. One daughter is now a working actress and model and one son is now pursing composing music as a career. It's always fun and exciting to see your kids succeed no matter what they do but when it's their passion it's been pretty rewarding to be able to watch and listen to them perform.

How is working at Davert USA different and similar to your background in broadcasting?

I am the director of sales and marketing for Davert North America, which includes Davert USA here in Bowling Green and Davert Tools in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. When I was in radio I had to do business development to call on companies and present them with the opportunity to support a radio station ministry. With Davert, I still call on companies and talk to them about how Davert can help them in their manufacturing process and hopefully get the opportunity to give them a competitive quote for the business. So sales is sales is sales, it just differs on what your product is. They have been very gracious to provide me with the flexibility to serve in the Senate and work for them at the same time.

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