BIPPS’ pension testimony: It’s the benefit structure that’s the problem

BIPRT TESTIFIES @ MARCH PPOB MEETINGThe Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team offered its presentation “Sound Solutions for Kentucky’s Pension Crisis” at a recent meeting of the state’s Public Pension Oversight Board.

Dr.  William Smith told board members that addressing Kentucky’s public-retirement crisis is key to understanding and confronting the structural imbalance of the benefits system.

 

Bluegrass Institute Board member Aaron Ammerman, an investment adviser in Lexington, testified that while addressing pension benefits is a difficult topic fraught with emotion, it must be done in order to pursue true reform “with real teeth to it.”

He also told board members that while the Bluegrass Institute is not opposed to keeping a defined benefit system for state retirees, the rules for maintaining a properly funded pension system have not been followed in Kentucky like they have in other states.

Ammerman focused on a couple of the most-important rules.

 

The Bluegrass Pension Reform Team will make a presentation on Kentucky’s trouble pension system this Saturday, April 22, at the monthly meeting of Take Back Kentucky. The meeting begins at 1 pm at the Family Buffet restaurant, 121 Towne Drive, in Elizabethtown 42701 (next to the Kroger store near Dixie Highway).

 

Bluegrass Beacon: A Shakespearean take on an Amish farmer’s tragedy

BluegrassBeaconLogoTo try, or not to try, that is the question: 
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer  
The slings and arrows of FDA noncompliance

Is this how Shakespeare might have rendered a current version of “Hamlet” were he writing in these days of out-of-control government agencies, including perhaps the most McCarthy-like of them all: the Food and Drug Administration?

In the case of Sam Girod, an Amish farmer in Bath County, the FDA suffered him not – nor the labels on his herb-rendered skin salves, for that matter.

It all started a few years ago when Girod ambitiously claimed in labeling and promotional materials that his ointments concocted with chickweed and bloodroot could cure skin cancers along with less-serious ailments.

Girod agreed to remove “skin cancer” from the label and call the product “Chickweed Healing Salve.”

The FDA wasn’t satisfied.

They now objected to “healing” in its name, so he renamed the ointment “Chickweed Salve.”

But the agency’s regulatory brutes wouldn’t be content until they made an example out of Girod.

The FDA bullied its way to a felony conviction against this simple Amish farmer who’s now staring at a possible 48-year prison sentence when he’s sentenced in June – all for such scary activity as misbranding labels and the fact that his farm was “an establishment not registered with the Food and Drug Administration” and on arbitrary charges of “impeding” a federal investigation.

I doubt Farmer Sam will be contemplating Shakespeare’s writings while finishing out his life behind bars. And it certainly doesn’t seem like the FDA, judge and prosecutors in this case will be feeling the “oppressor’s wrong” or “the insolence of office” anytime soon, as Will might have observed.

In fact, they might even be assembling a new SWAT team to save future Kentuckians from the perils of Amish farmers’ skin salves.

Plenty of avenues exist to resolve these types of cases without such harsh tactics.

Customers could have returned Farmer Sam’s products, boycotted his business or even sued him for financial damages if they believed he defrauded them.

Even the fact that Girod twice relabeled his ointment wasn’t enough to satisfy the zealotry of the FDA and a small-town court obsessed with carrying out its skin-salve witch hunt.

Wouldn’t it have been cheaper for the town just to burn poor Farmer Sam at the stake like in Shakespeare’s day?

“Aye, there’s the rub,” as Will writes in “Hamlet.”

If Sam were forced to “shuffle off his mortal coil,” what political lesson of intimidation would exist to warn other Amish farmers, raw-milk producers, farm-to-table hosts and every producer of natural remedies and herbal cures found on shelves in all sorts of establishments – from the shelves of Walmart to your local holistic grocery store?

Producers of these natural products should all prepare ultimately to feel the slap of the heavy-handed FDA enforcement regime.  

But what happens in a few years after a lifetime of “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” when the judge, his prosecutors and FDA tyrants along with their enablers – and perhaps even the jurors who took only four hours to condemn an Amish father of 12 – find themselves with an odd spot on their hand that stubbornly persists and won’t go away?

Maybe they’ll be informed by a doctor: “it’s cancer.”

They’ll try chemo; it won’t work.

Maybe they’re given a devastating sentence that the little skin spot could cost them their life.

Now they’d give anything to have access to a 100 percent natural chickweed salve produced by an Amish farmer who by then may have shuffled off his mortal coil and took his recipe – and their right to try it – with him.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Beacon – Tax plans, tax plans: Which is fairest of them all?

BluegrassBeaconLogoGetting rid of an unbalanced reliance on the income tax and moving to an approach that taxes consumption instead would brand Kentucky a state of producers rather than a commonwealth of punishers.

After all, what do personal and corporate income taxes accomplish other than funding government services and programs by punishing – and thus discouraging – individuals from producing and businesses from growing?

A proven free-market principle is: policies get more of what they encourage and less of what is discouraged.

States moving away from income-tax policies to approaches capturing revenue from purchases of products and services have more vibrant economies than their counterparts, most of which demonstrate only economic mediocrity.

Kentucky currently fits into the latter category, according to the Tax Foundation, which claims that 32 other states have a better business tax climate.

A common attribute among states ranking near the top of the foundation’s 2017 Business Tax Climate Index is that they don’t levy one or more of the major taxes: the corporate or individual income tax or the sales tax.

However, even some states holding onto all major taxes – like Indiana and Utah – rank in the index’s top 10 because they have greatly lowered their rates, albeit with broader bases.

North Carolina, meanwhile, moved from No. 41 on the foundation’s 2013 index to No. 11 in the latest ranking by enacting a flat tax with a relatively low 5.5 percent rate.

Any of these approaches is better than the current policy in Kentucky, which could follow these states’ lead or leap even higher by getting rid of income taxes altogether and raising the greatest portion of its revenue via consumers.

To opponents, however, such an approach would be too fair.

Their narrative is that consumer levies, like sales or flat taxes, treat everyone the same: the more you buy, the more tax you pay; the less you purchase, the lower your tax bill.

How, exactly, is that a problem?

Remember: fairness is not the ultimate goal of these defenders of the status quo. In fact, they don’t care for the fairness of a consumption-based tax at all.

Instead, they favor the Robin-Hood approach (apologies to Russell Crowe).

Implementing a policy whereby the commonwealth raises a significant amount of its revenue by taxing spending rather than producing removes the ability of these modern-day Robin Hoods to ambush producers in the rich forests of the Bluegrass State and redistribute their wealth to others.

However, citizens likely will ultimately resist their Bernie-Sanders-Elizabeth-Warren-Hugo-Chavez approach to tax policy when they understand the real benefits to them personally of a consumption-based tax policy:

  • Bigger paychecks.

Abolishing Kentucky’s state income tax would amount to an immediate increase in the size of many paychecks.

  • No more April 15 surprises.

Since all taxes owed would be paid during purchases in this pay-as-you-go system, there would be no complicated forms to file, unexpected bills or audits.

  • A built-in incentive for Kentuckians to save.

An income-tax policy means entire paychecks are taxed, regardless of how much is saved or spent.

Where’s the incentive to save in that approach?

A consumption-based levy taxes only what is actually spent and likely will result in less impulsive and more productive purchases.

Plus, lawmakers could lighten the burden on lower-income residents by opting not to tax food or medicine, which would give frugal shoppers who purchase only the basics the added advantage of paying even less in taxes.

What better ideas do opponents of a consumption-based tax offer for building healthier savings accounts and, with them, a stronger state economy and more independent and prosperous citizenry?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Beacon: KERA architect spreads fake news about education climb

BluegrassBeaconLogoDavid Hornbeck, an architect of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) who describes himself as a “consultant to the Kentucky legislature, 1989-1990,” claims in a recent op-ed opposing charter schools: “Kentucky’s children have made more progress than those of any other state in the nation.”

For such a claim to hold up under scrutiny of the evidence – something Hornbeck fails to provide even in the least amount to support his sunshiny analysis – it must totally disregard what happened to Kentucky’s black students, the commonwealth’s largest racial minority, after KERA came along.

Only four of the 28 states with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) eighth-grade math data needed to compare progress among black students from 1990 – the earliest available – to 2015 improved less than Kentucky’s blacks.

Meanwhile, other southern states like North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Arkansas matched or exceeded the national-average increase in black students’ math scores between 1990 and 2015.

Can it just be coincidence that each of those states has for years allowed primarily minority, low-income parents the opportunity to choose what’s often a better educational alternative for their children: charter schools?

It’s also not likely coincidental that Kentucky by not allowing its parents that same option of enrolling their children in charter schools never came close to any of these states in terms of academic improvement.

The General Assembly has now made that option available with passage of charter-school legislation during the waning days of this year’s legislative session.

Neither is it happenstance that KERA’s most ardent defenders –  including teachers-union representatives and longtime members of the education establishment – provide the most zealous opposition to school choice and feverishly hope the charter-school movement fails in the Bluegrass State.

At the very least, Hornbeck’s claim of “more progress” made by Kentucky’s children than in “any other state” shatters once you realize the commonwealth’s eighth-grade blacks improved by only one paltry point on NAEP reading scores between 1998 and 2015.

Is Hornbeck unaware of the performance of black students in Tennessee, which ranks fourth nationally for its increase in eighth-grade reading scores during that same 17-year period?

Might this be a good place to mention that Volunteer State parents have had the option of charter schools during all but four years of that 17-year period?

Travel further south to Florida, which offers a multitude of school-choice options in addition to charter schools – including vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and open-enrollment choices – and there you will find a state where black students, who trailed their fellow blacks in Kentucky by 10 points in 1998, are now four points ahead of their black peers in the Bluegrass State.

Hornbeck’s claim that Kentucky is a nation-beater doesn’t even hold up among Kentucky’s white students.

Whites comprise 80 percent of the commonwealth’s public-school population but only statistically significantly outscored their fellow whites in just two other states in eighth-grade math scores in 2015.

House Bill 940, which passed in 1990 and is better known as KERA, declares in Section 3: “Schools shall expect a high level of achievement from all students.”

Did Hornbeck, operating in his “consultant” role, get paid to write that sentence?

If so, doesn’t he owe taxpayers a refund considering the lack of progress among our neediest students since KERA became law 27 years ago?

These are the very children who most need charter schools and are the primary reason why House Bill 520 – which finally opens the doors to charters in Kentucky – made it through this year’s legislature.

Disadvantaged kids also are the reason why we must make sure local boards of education, which HB 520 designates as sole authorizers in 171 of Kentucky’s 173 school districts, give charter-school applicants a fair shot – something too many of these students haven’t found in our commonwealth’s KERA-based, one-size-fits-all public education system.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Beacon: Control costs, make health care great again

BluegrassBeaconLogoThe latest RINO to lose is the Repeal In Name Only health-care bill – also known officially as the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – meant to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

To paraphrase Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, what’s the point in replacing a program that subsidizes, taxes, punishes and practices conniving cronyism with a policy that promises a “refundable tax credit” (subsidizes), financially castigates those with good insurance (taxes), forces individuals who allow their coverage to drop to pay 30 percent more to insurance companies just to get reinstated (punishes) and props up insurance companies with $100 million of “reinsurance” funding (conniving cronyism)?

Nothing offered by Washington in either of these approaches effectively addresses the primary culprit in the current health-care fiasco: cost.

Forcing insurers, for example, to cover an array of 10 “essential health benefits” – from maternity care to mental health and drug abuse – greatly drives up the cost of premiums for everyone.

Why, for example, is a 65-year-old man forced to purchase a health-insurance plan that includes maternity coverage?

Such mandates drive up the cost of his plan, and, depending on his financial status, may require a taxpayer-provided handout to help him afford the premium, making him dependent on government to pay for his insurance that includes coverage for services he neither wants nor needs.

If we’re going to include government subsidies in our health-insurance policy, why don’t we at least do it in a way that actually helps some folks truly in need without penalizing everyone else?

Supporters fear getting rid of Obamacare would result in really sick people with longstanding illnesses being left without access to adequate coverage.

It doesn’t have to be that way if privately run high-risk pools are allowed as part of any “replacement” agreement.

Just like swimmers “share” the pool’s water, so participants with preexisting health conditions divvy up coverage costs.

Since participants in such a plan offer a much higher risk of filing claims and using health-care services, premiums will be higher than those of healthy consumers in the individual market.

Government can intervene in a limited manner by providing subsidies to people in these pools that help bridge the gap between lower incomes and higher premiums.

Taking this approach reveals a stark contrast between a safety-net program and sledgehammer-to-an-ant approach that happens when government tries to run the entire health-care system.

It’s the distinction between offering food stamps to low-income individuals to purchase their groceries versus government running the grocery stores.

Witness the disaster known as “Section 8 housing” and understand: there’s a considerable difference between government offering housing vouchers to assist lower-income citizens in finding a place in the private marketplace to rent and the demonstrated public-housing debacle found in cities in the commonwealth and across the nation.

Such a policy would help folks with preexisting conditions engage in their own care as they shop to find a plan that works best for them – the process of which will expose them to what their coverage truly costs and the care they can expect to receive.

Neither the ACA nor the ACHA does much of anything to engage individuals – with or without preexisting conditions – in their own care, especially when it comes to knowing the cost of products like prescription drugs or services such as surgeries.

The combination of consumers not knowing anything about the price tag of their care while government mandates products and services insurers must provide and then turns around and subsidizes them offers little incentive to providers to control costs – the primary obstacle to making America’s health-care system great again.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

News Release: Confronting pension crisis calls for reforming benefits structure

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 27, 2017  BIPPS LOGO

(FRANKFORT, Ky) – While most of the recent discussion regarding public-pension reform has focused on funding levels and investment returns, Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team (BIPRT) member Aaron Ammerman told the state’s Public Pension Oversight Board today that the retirement systems’ benefit structure is “the most significant contributing factor to our crises today.”

The commonwealth faces more than $38 billion in pension debt with the state employee nonhazardous fund – the Kentucky Retirement System’s largest plan – sliding toward insolvency with a current funding level of only 16 percent.

“Retroactive benefit enhancements always wreak havoc on a defined benefit plan, and that is what happened in Kentucky,” Ammerman, a financial advisor and member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Directors, said in prepared comments.

The team’s testimony focused on two practices that have contributed significantly to Kentucky’s pension hole becoming deeper over time: the practice of awarding benefits retroactively and a failure by legislators to obtain a cost analysis prior to enhancing benefits.

Such practices reflect repeated violations of the Kentucky Constitution and state statute.

“The Bluegrass Institute has reviewed dozens of benefit enhancements granted to employees back to the 1980s and found only one such cost analysis,” Ammerman said. “Legislators were enhancing benefits without even the slightest idea about the increased costs that would be incurred to the system and, therefore, the taxpayers of Kentucky.”

He offered an example of a currently employed 20-year state employee who has faithfully contributed his required share into the system for a promised future benefit and which, as long as the state fulfills its funding obligation and assumed investment returns are met, this employee’s pension will be fully funded in retirement.

“If, however, this employee’s promised benefits were increased just before retirement, all of the contributions and calculations over the previous 20 years would be inadequate to fund that higher retirement benefit,” Ammerman said.

BIPRT member Dr. William Smith, a Madisonville dermatologist who served on Gov. Matt Bevin’s pension reform transition team, called on lawmakers to practice “actuarial integrity” when making future decisions regarding benefits by ensuring that “the benefits defined by the legislature and actuarially prefunded with normal cost payroll contributions are the same benefits received by plan members upon retirement.”

Along with offering specific recommendations for both the Kentucky Retirement Systems and the Teachers’ Retirement System, Smith offered four proposals for all systems:

  • Enact a constitutional amendment prohibiting retroactive benefit enhancements.
  • Provide complete transparency for all benefits received by every retiree and how these benefits were determined.
  • Ensure the governance and board representation of each plan reflects the risk assumed by each stakeholder, noting that “taxpayers need to properly and proportionately be represented in each plan.”
  • If legitimate reform efforts prove unsuccessful, impose a “hard freeze” on current benefits and establish a new system.

To reach Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team members for comment, contact Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters @ 270.320.4376.

BIPPS in Lexington Herald-Leader: Challenging KERA’s ‘success’

Some defenders of the education status quo contend that the existence of the Kentucky Education Reform Act renders charter schools useless in the Bluegrass State.

But staff education analyst Richard Innes challenges the claim, taking issue with KERA architect David Hornbeck’s recent assertions that “Kentucky children have made more progress than any other state in the union.”

Innes responds: The commonwealth’s chronic achievement gap makes it clear that KERA’s promise of all kids receiving a quality education remains sorely unfulfilled — most of all for the Bluegrass State’s largest racial minority group.

“The commonwealth’s chronic achievement gap makes it clear that KERA’s promise of all kids receiving a quality education remains sorely unfulfilled — most of all for the Bluegrass State’s largest racial minority group. The truth is, given their record of success with minorities, charters could help in Kentucky.

The truth is, given their record of success with minorities, charters could help in Kentucky.

KERA, despite Hornbeck’s claims, hasn’t.”

Read Richard’s entire op-ed here.

Bluegrass Beacon — Kentucky to the ‘trade deficit’: You’re fired!

BluegrassBeaconLogoConsidering the Bluegrass State last year exported $30 billion worth of goods and services – more than 33 other states – Kentuckians should vigorously oppose anything remotely associated with a “war on trade.”

American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry rated the share of Kentucky’s economy in 2015 linked to imports and exports fifth-highest in the nation, comprising 34 percent – or $66 billion – of the commonwealth’s $193 billion GDP.

Perhaps Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who recently conducted a trade mission to Japan, could find a way to strike up a cordial conversation with his good friend President Donald Trump to put the commander-in-chief at ease about this whole “trade-deficit” matter.

Bevin could even share some wisdom from flyover country by passing on Indiana University Southeast economics professor D. Eric Schansberg’s reason for claiming the trade deficit remains “the most misunderstood concept in economics.”

Schansberg, Ph.D., says the discussion about international trade often focuses heavily on the downside – which tends to be more visible in terms of some individuals losing out in a global economy – while nearly completely missing out on its subtle but significantly important benefits for an entire state or nation.

“Trade is good for the aggregate if not always for the individual,” he says.

Schansberg, who’s also a Bluegrass Institute scholar, notes that “exports lead to imports” and warns that attempting to artificially narrow the so-called “trade deficit” could result in fewer dollars invested in America’s economy.

“Everybody talks about the difference in goods and services exported versus imports when what really matters is investment surplus,” Schansberg says.

Shallow-thinking protectionists rarely dig deep enough to reach this important component in making their own determinations about the success or failure of free-trade relationships.

Why, these shallow paddlers must wonder, would Bevin travel to Japan to tout the commonwealth as an attractive investment option instead of chastising that nation because last year it only spent $1.1 billion in direct purchases from Kentucky while we as a state imported $5.1 billion worth of Japanese products?

Consider the rest of this trading-partnership story.

Not only are imports critical to keeping Kentucky at – or near – the top in the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries, but Japanese-owned companies now operate more than 180 facilities in our commonwealth.

And while Kentucky is the fifth-largest importer of Japanese goods – Japan is the No. 1 international investor in the Bluegrass State, having created 44,400 full-time positions in those facilities.

“Investment surplus,” anyone?

An important teaching moment could occur if our governor explained to the president why Kentucky exporting nearly $30 billion while importing almost $40 billion is worthy of replicating rather than punishing, which would only bring us more harm, anyhow.

Schansberg notes the last time America had a trade surplus was not during an uptick but when the economy tanked during the late 1970s.

“It’s because investors were looking at our economy and they didn’t see it as a great investment,” he said.

All those current imports mean more choices and better prices for consumers and industry. It means foreign investors look at today’s Kentucky and America and they like – really like – what they see.

Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat, a 19th-century champion of free-market economics, proposed reversing “the principle of the balance of trade and calculate the national profit from foreign trade in terms of the excess of imports over exports.”

Bastiat called this “excess” the “real profit,” and challenged the contemporary protectionists of his day to produce evidence showing otherwise.

“Even if our imports are infinite and our exports nothing, I defy you to prove to me that we should be the poorer for it,” he said.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Institute statement on passage of charter-school legislation

BIPPS LOGO

The Bluegrass Institute has led the fight to empower Kentucky’s parents to have the option of choosing to enroll their children in public charter schools since the day it opened its doors in 2003.

Tonight, the General Assembly completed passage of House Bill 520 allowing the creation of charter schools across the commonwealth beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

“We hope to see Kentucky children, especially those being left behind by a one-size-fits-all system – many of whom are disadvantaged and from lower-income homes – have the opportunity for the kind of charter-school education that will give them a chance to participate in the American dream of prosperity and a successful life,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.

Passage of HB 520 makes Kentucky the 44th state with a charter school law. Currently, nearly 7,000 charter schools serve 3 million students nationwide.

“While the Bluegrass Institute will continue to work to encourage more innovation and options in our education system, passage of this bill does open the door to charter schools throughout the commonwealth,” Waters said. “By heeding the institute’s call to add authorizers – as the legislation does by including the mayors of Kentucky’s two largest cities as authorizers – lawmakers improved the chances of applicants opening high-performing charter schools where they are urgently needed the most.”

The Bluegrass Institute will work diligently to see that charter-school applications are fairly and seriously considered by local boards of education, which HB 520 designates as the lone authorizers in most school districts, he added.

For more information, please contact Jim Waters at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).

 

 

 

Bluegrass Institute — Charter-school bill: Will kids win?

BluegrassBeaconLogoThe Bevin administration and House Republican leadership – despite hard pushes for other platform priorities such as right-to-work and prevailing-wage repeal – may settle for a mediocre charter-school bill.

This is a testament to the stronghold the public-education complex has on our commonwealth and to its willingness to put money and control before students’ best interests.

Charter-school legislation has passed the state Senate for years, including Sen. Mike Wilson’s bill last year that sailed through with a 28-9 vote but ran aground before reaching the other end of the Capitol – a pattern we’ve seen for years.

Then came Election Night 2016 when the GOP took control of the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a century.

Voters handed Republicans supermajority status in the historic November election and seemed to say – as they had to then-candidate Matt Bevin during the previous year’s gubernatorial campaign: “Go to Frankfort, make the tough decisions and don’t worry about your re-election.”

Legislators led by a new and energized majority leadership responded by passing seven bills in the session’s historic first week concluding with an equally momentous Saturday session despite threats from protesting union bosses in the halls of the Capitol to defeat them in the next election.

Then came the charter-school bills.

Rep. Phil Moffett’s House Bill 103 would have allowed mayors in Kentucky’s largest cities, the Council on Postsecondary Education as well as colleges and universities with accredited education colleges to serve as charter-school authorizers – a best practice working well in other states.

Then superintendents, teachers-union bosses and the public-education complex in general threatened to make this the last term in Frankfort for anyone supporting a strong charter-school bill.

Along came Rep. John “Bam” Carney’s House Bill 520, limiting authorizers to local school boards except for mayors in Metro Louisville and Lexington, albeit with an appeals process to the Kentucky Board of Education. That bill passed the Kentucky House and now sits in the Senate Education Committee.

So, education-complex threats may be strong enough to force Kentucky policymakers to settle for a bill, the mediocrity of which mirrors this state’s education system in which, as Moffett notes, only 51 percent of high-schoolers can read at grade level and just 38 percent are proficient in math.

The Bevin administration sees Carney’s bill as an opportunity to get the door opened for charter schools in one of only seven remaining states without charters.

But even Bevin conceded he “would have liked to have seen more than is in this bill” while insisting “we have to factor in what is possible.”

Another possibility, of course, is to wait until a stronger bill can be passed – not the first time we’ve mentioned in this column that route for serious consideration.

At the very least, facts should drive the debate that will take place in the coming days in Frankfort, including this one: charter-school creation is much-more robust in states with multiple authorizing agencies.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reports there were 6,723 charter schools in the United States during 2015, of which 93 percent – or 6,241 – were in states with multiple authorizers. Only 482 – or 7 percent – exist in states that limit authorizers to local school boards.

For sure, the angst and debate regarding charter-school policy will test the political mettle of those sent to Frankfort by constituents assuming they would be in favor of strong reforms to our education system, which consumes 60 cents of every taxpayer dollar.

Will they stand up to the teachers unions’ uninformed and angry zealotry?

Will they fight for poor and at-risk children who stand to gain the most from great charter schools and who have no other voice but ours?

Will the best interests of thousands of young Kentuckians stuck in hundreds of mediocre and failing schools find a seat at the legislative table and a place in that debate?

Stay tuned.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.