History

PRICHARD COMMITTEE FOR ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE

Since 1983, the Prichard Committee has worked to study priority issues, inform the public and policy makers about best practices and engage citizens, business leaders, families, students, and other stakeholders in a shared mission to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states for education excellence and equity for all children, from their earliest years through postsecondary education.

Thanks to the efforts of the Committee and dedicated citizens, Kentucky has moved from the bottom of the national rankings in education to the middle and above. Our ambitious goal is to move to the top tier of all states within this generation.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence emerged from the vision of Edward F. Prichard and his desire to increase the quality of Kentucky education. The Committee was an outgrowth of a state government council to improve higher education and reorganized in 1983 as a citizens’ group to champion the cause of better schools, taking the name of its first chair. When Prichard died in 1984, his friend and colleague, Bob Sexton, took over leadership of the Committee and transformed it into a nationally recognized, private, non-partisan advocacy organization. Sexton and the Committee were instrumental in ensuring the passage of 1990’s Kentucky Education Reform Act, a national model for education reform, and subsequent legislation and programs designed to elevate Kentucky to the top tier of education excellence. Although Sexton died in 2010, the Committee continues his legacy of studying, informing and engaging citizens in improving education excellence for all Kentuckians.

Who Was Ed Prichard?
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is named for Edward F. Prichard, a Bourbon County, Kentucky, lawyer, political reformer and lifelong advocate for the role of excellent education in building a civil and prosperous society. A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, Prichard clerked for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and helped craft Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal while working in the White House. Prichard was considered by many intellectuals, academicians and politicians to be one of the brightest young minds of his generation. His intellectual brilliance was counter-balanced with a trait that historian Arthur Schlesinger called “a fine but dangerous carelessness.” A target of J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to discredit New Deal politics, Prichard was convicted of election fraud in Kentucky in 1949. Although he was pardoned by President Harry Truman, the scandal wounded Prichard’s political career. He became a trustworthy advisor to Kentucky policy makers and in 1966 was appointed to the State Council on Higher Education by Governor Edward Breathitt.  From that position, Prichard engineered the rise of Kentucky’s education system out of out of mediocrity. After serving 14 years on the Council, Prichard became chairman of a citizen’s advocacy committee for excellent education, later named the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. The committee’s first report, “In Pursuit of Excellence,”is the Committee’s seminal work and is considered a national model. Prichard died in 1984. His unwavering belief that “opening a way to a larger life was education’s aim” is the legacy that animates the Committee’s work to this day.