We had a lively night on education on KET on Monday with myself and Wayne Lewis, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education; Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and Eric Kennedy, governmental relations director for the Kentucky School Boards Association.
This link will let you hear the broadcast.
Over the next few days I will be following up with comments there wasn’t time to make on air. I started yesterday discussing a claim I don’t think is right. That claim: even though Kentucky’s per pupil public education expenditures aren’t at the 1980s level, it’s approaching it. You can check my earlier blog to see that in fact, even after adjusting for inflation, per pupil expenditures today are nowhere near as low as they were back in 1989.
Today I will cover some of the comments that came up when we started to talk about a very problematic proposed revision to Kentucky’s social studies standards.
First, some background: In Kentucky revisions to our education standards are adopted using the state’s administrative regulations process. The regulation that will adopt the new social studies standards, 704 KAR 8:060, is nearly complete with that process and only faces one more legislative review by the Interim Joint Committee on Education. The discussion on Kentucky Tonight centered on how that committee might find the regulation deficient, thus sending it back to the Kentucky Board of Education and the department for more work. But, I don’t think the right message got out.
Starting at 34 minutes and 6 seconds into the broadcast, Brigitte Blom Ramsey said that:
“If the General Assembly would find the standards deficient, they would do so based on finding the process (used to create the standards) deficient…but not the content.”
She was implying that the committee would not consider the fact that the standards being adopted were clearly inadequate.
I don’t think that is correct.
First, there is precedent from 2013 when Kentucky was adopting new science standards, the controversial Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In the regulation review at the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee those NGSS standards were in fact found to be deficient, and the comments from legislators on the committee made it clear the finding wasn’t process based. It was about content.
Second, right or wrong, the Kentucky Supreme Court in the 1989 Rose V. The Council for Better Education decision determined that the legislature is ultimately responsible for education in the commonwealth. That being the case, if legislators are unhappy with a matter involving education, they have the right, in fact the duty, to act. The legislature is where the education buck stops.
Without question, there are plenty of problems with the social studies standards that would be adopted if 704 KAR 8:060 is allowed to go into force. You can read about some of those problems by searching our blog with the term “Social Studies Standards” and you can also access my June testimony to the Interim Joint Committee on Education by clicking here.
After you look at the evidence, you will understand why I will be really amazed and disappointed if our legislators don’t require improvements to the vague standards under consideration.
After all, the proposed standards actually only mention four disciplines, Civics, Geography, Economics and History, as the focus of Kentucky’s new social studies program. However, the National Council for the Social Studies says a quality social studies program actually should include at least 13 separate disciplines, adding to the four mentioned Anthropology, Archaeology, Law, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology and the Humanities. Will our legislators really just stand by and allow our kids to be short-changed on 9/13ths of the rich social studies curriculum the national organization that specialized in this area recommends?
I also think legislators could generate troublesome issues for themselves if they blindly allow the proposed standards – which mention George Washington and Thomas Jefferson but ignore Kentucky’s honored son Abraham Lincoln and also ignore other important historical figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – to go into force. I can see folks from out of state really rolling their eyes about Kentucky if that goes down.
So, the story is far from over.
In fact, if you agree that Kentucky’s students deserve a lot more than the proposed social studies standards will provide, you need to let your legislators know. Even if they don’t serve on the Interim Joint Committee on Education, the fallout from these standards could touch everyone in the organization where the education buck finally stops.