We’re revisiting the state’s landmark supreme court decision, Rose v. Council for Better Education, continuing the journey toward securing an adequate education for students across the Commonwealth.
Background & History
Rose v. Council for Better Education: A Landmark Decision
In 1989, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Rose v. Council for Better Education that electrified the Commonwealth—and the nation—and led to sweeping educational reforms even beyond Kentucky. The Court determined that Kentucky’s entire education system was unconstitutional, and it required the Commonwealth to design an entirely new system that would provide all students with an “adequate” and “equitable” education. The Court specifically defined “adequacy” to mean an education system that provides “each and every child” with seven “capacities”.
The 7 Capacities of Rose
Sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization, such as:
- Media literacy skills that enable students to distinguish accurate from inaccurate information on the internet and social media
- Sufficient reading, writing and verbal skills to participate effectively in civic, business and social activities
- Critical analytic skills
Sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices, such as:
- Substantial knowledge of American, world and Kentucky history
- Awareness of current events, including both sides of controversial social, political and economic issues
- Financial literacy: knowing how to navigate personal finances
Sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation, such as:
- Knowledge of the complementary roles of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government at the national, state and local levels
- Awareness of citizens’ rights and responsibilities.
- Civic engagement in community activities through service learning, community improvement projects, field trips to city hall, local town council meetings, etc.
Sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness, such as:
- Understanding basic physical and mental health wellness
- Access to necessary physical and mental health services
- Social-emotional learning and adopting anti-bullying practices
Sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage, such as:
- Appreciation of the visual and performing arts
- Knowledge and appreciation of their own cultural and historical heritage and that of their classmates
- Ability to enter into respectful conversations with people holding different views
Sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently, such as:
- Adequate career and technical instruction and mentoring opportunities
- Effective guidance in college preparation and college admissions procedures
- Effective preparation and guidance for military careers
Sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, such as:
- Teacher salary scales that are competitive with salaries in neighboring states
- Competitive participation by Kentucky students in regional or national academic, athletic and extracurricular activities
- The achievement of favorable comparative scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other regional and national assessment measures
The General Assembly responded by enacting the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), which codified (placed into law) the Court’s seven capacities. KERA charted a new path for education in Kentucky. These reforms made Kentucky a model for education reform throughout the country, and the landmark Rose decision birthed the nation-wide “adequacy” movement, with at least eight other state supreme courts citing Rose and its definition of an adequate education as the major precedent for their own rulings on students’ educational rights.
KSVT will produce a State of Schools report that will detail the state of the seven Rose capacities in Kentucky schools and derived from data collected in forum events, interviews and other stakeholder engagement efforts. Through a vigorous, ground-up public engagement campaign, we can rekindle the vision of Rose and spur action that affirms students’ constitutional right to an adequate and equitable education.
Join an upcoming event to share your voice
Three decades have gone by since the landmark Rose v. Council for Better Education decision in 1989. The subsequent educational reform, backed by the vision of the Rose case, promised an adequate and equitable education for every student in Kentucky.
However, data collected over the past 30 years suggests that while there have been strides forward, gaps still exist, necessitating a revisit of the Rose mandate. Here's why:
In light of this data, it becomes evident that while Kentucky has made significant strides since the 1989 Rose decision, the vision of an adequate and equitable education for all students is still an unfulfilled promise. Revisiting and reviving the spirit and specifics of the Rose mandate now is not just timely but crucial to ensure every student in the state gets the education they rightfully deserve.
Continuing the Fight
The Rose Revival Campaign
Now, over 30 years later, the Kentucky Student Voice Team is leading a campaign dubbed Rose Revival that is inspired by the landmark state supreme court decision, Rose v. Council for Better Education (1989). Our campaign aims to revisit and reaffirm the commitments and promises laid out in this historic decision that we know may not be reality for students of today.
Bringing the Rose decision to the forefront of Kentucky conversations and ensuring that current and future generations of students, parents, and educators understand the significance of the case will shape and inform the next chapter of Kentucky’s education history and legacy.
Creating a wide coalition of organizations and individuals with diverse social and geographic backgrounds will ensure that we actively realize the Rose Decision’s commitments to Kentucky students.
Surfacing stories and statistics from Kentuckians of all walks of life will serve as both a reality check and a guide of where to go next, ensuring that the ideals of the Rose Decision stand both resilient and relevant today.
Why it Matters
The Rose decision was not just a legal mandate on paper; it was a promise to every Kentucky student that they will learn what they need to thrive in a local and global community - from communication skills and understanding of the government to grounding in the arts and vocational skills.
Despite earlier progress made in the first decade after Rose and KERA, Kentucky’s schools today are not effectively implementing the seven Rose capacities. Today many Kentuckians—like many Americans—are not properly prepared in school with the basic knowledge and skills necessary for effective participation in civic life.
We believe this vision of seven necessary capacities still resonates with Kentuckians today, even decades later, and can propel Kentucky to overcome the erosion of democratic norms and values and nurture more inclusive, successful, and vibrant communities.
Where We’ve Been