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Early Childhood Education

Renee Shaw leads a discussion on early childhood education. Guests: State Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Benton); State Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville); Sarah Vanover from Kentucky Youth Advocates; Kate Shanks from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Brigitte Blom from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; and Andrew McNeill from Kentucky Forum for Rights, Economics & Education.
Season 30 Episode 41 Length 56:33 Premiere: 02/26/24


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis of major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw.

For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions in real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form. Viewers with questions and comments may send an email to or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 800-494-7605.

After the broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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Watch on KET’s website anytime or through the PBS Video App.


The Kentucky Tonight podcast features each episode’s audio for listening.

Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator at KET, currently serving as host of KET’s weeknight public affairs program Kentucky Edition, the signature public policy discussion series Kentucky Tonight, the weekly interview series Connections, Election coverage and KET Forums.

Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include a daily news and information program, Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

Renee has also earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), with three regional Emmy awards. In 2023, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the NATAS, one of the industry’s highest honors recognizing television professionals with distinguished service in broadcast journalism for 25 years or more.  

Already an inductee into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame (2017), Renee expands her hall of fame status with induction into Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in November of 2023.  

In February of 2023, Renee graced the front cover of Kentucky Living magazine with a centerfold story on her 25 years of service at KET and even longer commitment to public media journalism. 

In addition to honors from various educational, civic, and community organizations, Renee has earned top honors from the Associated Press and has twice been recognized by Mental Health America for her years-long dedication to examining issues of mental health and opioid addiction.  

In 2022, she was honored with Women Leading Kentucky’s Governor Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award recognizing her trailblazing path and inspiring dedication to elevating important issues across Kentucky.   

In 2018, she co-produced and moderated a 6-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. 

She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; and was recognized as a “Kentucky Trailblazer” by the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration during the Wendell H. Ford Lecture Series in 2019. That same year, Shaw was named by The Kentucky Gazette’s inaugural recognition of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government.  

Renee was bestowed the 2021 Berea College Service Award and was named “Unapologetic Woman of the Year” in 2021 by the Community Action Council.   

In 2015, she received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking. In 2014, Renee was awarded the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the KY Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform. Two Kentucky governors, Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Andy Beshear, have commissioned Renee as a Kentucky Colonel for noteworthy accomplishments and service to community, state, and nation.  

A former adjunct media writing professor at Georgetown College, Renee traveled to Cambodia in 2003 to help train emerging journalists on reporting on critical health issues as part of an exchange program at Western Kentucky University. And, she has enterprised stories for national media outlets, the PBS NewsHour and Public News Service.  

Shaw is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, a board member of CASA of Lexington, and a longtime member of the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Incorporated, an international, not-for-profit organization of women of color committed to volunteer service. She has served on the boards of the Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington Minority Business Expo, and the Board of Governors for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Panelists Discuss the High Costs of Child Care in Kentucky and Proposed Legislation to Provide Funding

With child care centers in Kentucky facing the end of federal pandemic relief funding, and families in many counties struggling to find care options for their young children, one state senator is proposing $300 million to support the industry.

Sen. Danny Carroll’s Horizons Act includes funds to help families cover the costs of child care tuitions, grant money for providers seeking to create innovative models for delivery of child care, and dollars for home-based care centers. Senate Bill 203 also creates an associate’s degree in early childhood education entrepreneurship at the state’s community and technical colleges that would teach students how to own and operate their own child care facilities.

“This issue is so important to our state, to our families, to our kids, to our economy,” says Carroll, “and it’s worth every cent of that investment.”

The Senate Families and Children Committee approved the legislation on Tuesday (Feb. 27), and the measure now awaits further actions by the Senate.

The Roots of the Child Care Crisis

Carroll, a Benton Republican who heads a western Kentucky non-profit that operates an early childhood center, says the child care crisis has been years in the making. He says Kentucky has lost half of its providers in the last decade alone. Now nearly 80 counties are considered child care deserts where more families are seeking care than local centers have available slots.

Part of the problem, which child care advocates say is a national issue, is the economics of the industry. Centers are caught between staffing costs and what parents can afford to pay in tuition. Infants and toddlers require more adult supervision than pre-school-age children. Yet the more employees a center has, the higher the operating costs.

“The business model is structured in such a way that you can’t generate more revenue, so we’re stuck where we are,” says Carroll.

That gives centers two options, says Sarah Vanover, policy and research director for Kentucky Youth Advocates. One is to keep employee wages low, which can lead to staff turnover. Vanover says the average wage for a child care worker in Kentucky is $12.39 an hour, which is below what someone could earn working in fast food or retail. The other option for centers is to raise tuition. In some instances, a family’s annual cost for child care already equals the cost of a year of college tuition, which prices families out of the market.

Congress provided vital relief payments for child care during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the last of those funds in Kentucky are set to run out later this year. Vanover says that money kept many centers afloat, and with the end of that support, facilities will be back to struggling to break even. She says that’s left providers with some tough choices.

“Do I lay off staff, do I reduce their wages, do I double the tuition for families, or do I just close?” says Vanover.

Would State Subsidies Result in Higher Costs?

Higher child care tuition or the closure of centers would impact more than just parents. Kate Shanks, vice president of public affairs at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, says those actions would reverberate through the state’s economy.

“There is a direct relationship to child care availability and affordability and workforce,” says Shanks. “If you don’t have child care, what is your alternative? Your alternative is not going to work, not going to a job, not being able to keep a job.”

While he acknowledges the benefits of quality care for the state’s youngest citizens, Andrew McNeill, president of Kentucky Forum for Rights, Economics and Education, questions the plan to pump millions into the industry. He contends many small businesses struggle to balance their expenses and profits, yet they don’t ask Frankfort for assistance. McNeill says parents have long grappled with child care and the issues facing in the industry deserve more than what he describes as a late-session bill to prop-up these centers.

“It’s kind of a rite of passage for parenting to go through some of the struggles of identifying child care, affording child care, making the sacrifice,” says McNeill.

Kentucky already has a state-funded program that helps low-income families pay for child care, McNeill notes. He argues that further subsidizing the industry will ultimately increase prices for their services. He says that’s what has happened with higher education and health care.

“Subsidies make services more expensive,” says McNeill. “So for the advocates, if their goal is to make child care more affordable, really the last thing we should be looking at are long-term subsidies, which will ultimately lead to higher tuition costs but also increasing costs, ever-growing costs for the taxpayers.”

Advocates say the state regularly incentivizes industries and businesses, from bourbon to the electric vehicle battery manufacturers. They also contend that offering high quality child care that is accessible to parents around the commonwealth is difficult in a state as poor as Kentucky.

“There really is no other choice than for state government to get involved to ensure that child care is an option for families,” says Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence President and CEO Brigitte Blom.

“These centers don’t want a handout,” adds Carroll. “They want to be able to survive like any other businessperson does, but the model just doesn’t allow for that, and subsidies may create higher prices, but investments in right places create dividends.”

Universal Pre-K and other Child Care Options

Some Frankfort Democrats, including Gov. Andy Beshear, have called for state funding of universal pre-kindergarten as another way to address the child care shortage and to better prepare Kentucky children for academic success as they grow older.

“I believe that the most important thing we can do is pass a public, universal pre-K program for four-year-olds,” says Armstrong. “Studies have shown over and over again that that’s the best way to make sure our kids are ready for kindergarten, and I believe it’s the best way to make sure that every kid across Kentucky benefits equally from our investments in early childhood education.”

Armstrong says universal pre-K can coexist with investments proposed in the Horizons Act. For his part, Carroll says he embraces an “all-of-the-above model” for early childhood education.

Blom says the Prichard Committee opposes any approach that would only fund universal pre-K. She says many day care centers already provide pre-school-quality child development opportunities. If all eligible youngsters were taken out of child care and moved into pre-K, Blom fears the child care centers would be put at even greater financial risk.

“If we do it any other way, what we’ll find is another death blow to child care,” says Blom. “So child care has got to be part of the pre-school delivery mix.”

Combining child care and pre-K models could provide new options for early childhood education in the commonwealth. Armstrong says the state needs more innovation in child care, especially for parents who work second or third shifts, or who have children with special needs.

“There’s a lot of innovation that we can do in this space to figure out how we meet the needs of families, how we meet the needs of kids, and how we make sure we’re setting up every child in our community for success,” says Armstrong.

Carroll says Kentucky can either “fall in a pit” with other states that have failed to support child care or be “the bright light on the horizon” that leads the nation with innovation in the industry. Vanover says Kentucky already has one policy that other states have copied. The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) allows certain child care workers to get free care for their own children. She also notes how several communities are fostering public-private partnerships to address local child care needs.

Shanks says the availability of child care is rapidly becoming an important recruitment tool for cities and towns to attract new businesses and workers.

“It’s not just what are the schools like, what is the housing situation? (It’s) what’s your child care situation like?” says Shanks.

For more content, watch KET’s Smart Start, a special report on early childhood development, which includes an extended discussion on the child care industry.

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Season 30 Episodes

Reviewing the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/15/24

Final Negotiations on the State Budget

S30 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/25/24

School Safety

S30 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/11/24

Early Childhood Education

S30 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/26/24

Abortion Legislation

S30 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/19/24

School Choice and Education Issues

S30 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/12/24

State Budget Discussion

S30 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/05/24

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education

S30 E37 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/29/24

Safer Kentucky Act

S30 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/22/24

Legislative Priorities in the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/08/24

Governor Andy Beshear's Budget Address

S30 E34 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 12/18/23

2024 Legislative Preview: Part Two

S30 E33 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/04/23

2024 Legislative Preview

S30 E32 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/20/23

Analysts Discuss What to Expect on Election Day 2023

S30 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/06/23

Candidate Conversations: Lieutenant Governor

S30 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/30/23

Candidate Conversations: Governor

S30 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/23/23

Political Analysts Forecast the 2023 General Election

S30 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/17/23

Secretary of State; Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E27 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/09/23

Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treasurer

S30 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/02/23

Kentucky's Economy, Jobs and Taxes

S30 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/25/23

Higher Education in Kentucky

S30 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/18/23

Kentucky's Health Care Challenges

S30 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/11/23

Education Issues in Kentucky

S30 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/21/23

Fancy Farm Preview and Kentucky Politics

S30 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/31/23

Kentucky's Energy Needs

S30 E20 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/17/23

Artificial Intelligence

S30 E19 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/10/23

Jobs, Inflation and the Economy

S30 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/26/23

SB 150 and LGBTQ Issues

S30 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/19/23

Horse Racing Safety

S30 E16 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 06/12/23

A Discussion of Gun Laws

S30 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/05/23

Recapping The 2023 Kentucky Primary

S30 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/22/23

2023 Primary Election Preview

S30 E13 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/15/23

Republican Candidate for Secretary of State

S30 E12 Length 15:00 Premiere Date 05/08/23

Republican Candidates for Governor

S30 E11 Length 1:29:20 Premiere Date 05/01/23

Candidates for Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E10 Length 1:15:06 Premiere Date 04/24/23

Challenges Facing Kentucky Schools

S30 E9 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/17/23

Policy Analysts Recap the 2023 General Assembly

S30 E8 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/10/23

Recap of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E7 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/03/23

Kentucky Legislation on LGBTQ+ Youth

S30 E6 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/20/23

Student Discipline Legislation

S30 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/13/23

Gambling Proposals in the Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/27/23

Kentucky's Teacher Shortage

S30 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/20/23

Exploring Local Government Issues

S30 E2 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/13/23

Child Abuse and Neglect in Kentucky

S30 E1 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/06/23

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Review of the 2024 Kentucky Lawmaking Session - S31 E3

Renee Shaw hosts a review of the 2024 Kentucky lawmaking session. Scheduled guests: State Sen. Phillip Wheeler (R-Pikeville); State Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville); State Rep. Rachel Roarx (D-Louisville); and State Rep. Michael Sarge Pollock (R-Campbellsville). A 2024 KET production.

  • Monday April 22, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
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Kentucky Tonight - S31 E4

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Kentucky Tonight - S31 E6

  • Monday May 20, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
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Legislative Session Recap - S31 E2

  • Wednesday April 17, 2024 5:00 am ET on KET
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State Budget - S30 E44

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