Facts regarding school choice in the commonwealth

Did you know that 56 percent of Kentucky’s black community would send their child to a different public school – if they had the choice?did_you_know_007_2169721

Did you know that 88 percent of Kentucky’s black community favors school choice?

And did you know that 82 percent of Kentucky’s black community supports charter schools – after learning about school choice?

Why won’t our elected officials, especially those in the House Education Committee, listen to the Kentuckians who need school choice most? Kentuckians demand school choice!

Kentucky coal at lowest point it’s ever been – and EPA wants to keep it there

Kentucky coal jobs are at their lowest number in recorded history. All of the losses this past quarter occurred in Appalachia. Coal miners in eastern Kentucky now number less than 8,000.kentucky energy equation

Eastern Kentucky has been hit hardest in recent years and, true, the disproportionate job losses in Appalachia are largely due to market factors. On the demand side, the falling price of natural gas has turned the attention of power plant operators away from coal in general. On the supply side, Eastern Kentucky has taken a particularly damaging hit as decades of coal mining has rendered the remaining supply of the black rock in Appalachia harder and harder – and more costly – to get to. That’s not even to mention the fact that Western Kentucky coal, formerly less desirable due to its higher sulfur content, is now more in vogue due to power plant emission controls.

But that’s not the whole story.

The new EPA mandates finalized over the past two years, as well as President Obama’s newest executive orders taking advantage of climate change hysteria, could be the final nail in the coffin for Appalachia’s energy sector. Though Eastern Kentucky got to this point largely due to economic factors, these new regulations are designed to crystallize its dismal economic outlook. In the very likely case that market supply and demand factors do change – and they constantly are doing just that – Eastern Kentucky, and the nation’s entire coal industry for that matter, will not have a chance to rebound.

And that’s because the current administration’s draconian rules are designed to keep Kentucky coal precisely where it currently stands – at its lowest point in recorded history.

Bluegrass Energy Quote of the Day

50 members of Kentucky’s House of Representatives petitioned President Obama this week to reconsider his executive orders which continue his war on coal through unilateral carbon regulations. This is what they had to say:kentucky energy equation

In Kentucky, coal is not just an energy source, it’s a way of life. The economic contribution of the coal mining industry to Kentucky in 2010 was $10 billion, 42,078 jobs, and $2.85 billion in earnings. For every 100 jobs in coal mining in Kentucky, there are an additional 120 full- and part-time jobs in other industries within the state that supply goods or services to support the coal industry and its employees. Unfortunately, employment at Kentucky coal mines has decreased from more than 19,000 to nearly 14,000 in just the past few years.

When these jobs are all but gone, can you tell us how we are supposed to replace them and the more than $1 billion in lost earnings? Job opportunities are already scarce in most of our mining communities. Our state also relies on coal-severance tax receipts, which totaled approximately $230 million in fiscal year 2013. Where will we get the support to offset the loss of those dollars? And the companies that choose to base their business in the Commonwealth because it has some of the lowest energy rates in the nation: How are we going to be able to attract and retain those businesses and jobs?

Before your administration begins a new round of regulations, we urge you to take another look at what role coal can and should play in the years ahead. We should not ignore its continued potential, nor should we ignore those whose livelihood depends on it. As we always say, those who believe we can live without coal could find that they are the ones who are literally in the dark.

Mercatus reveals harsh truths about federal regulations

A new release from the Mercatus Center provides even more evidence of what is becoming painfully clear in the commonwealth: that the benefits of too many federal rules simply don’t measure up to the costs.kentucky energy equation

In fact, of the 108 federal rules that Mercatus deemed “economically significant” between 2008 and 2012, the federal agency responsible for the rule provided “no evidence of any use” to support the rule in 64 percent of the cases! And in only 21 percent of the rules did the relevant agency provide a regulatory impact analysis for even a minor decision affected by the rule.

According to the report, the top three weaknesses in agency analysis are:

1. failing to define the problem,
2. failing to identify and evaluate options other than the proposed regulation, and
3. failing to establish the means to evaluate the regulation’s outcomes.

In Kentucky, we’ve seen these weaknesses time and again. Whether it be blocked mining permits, boondoggles like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or the current administration’s newest carbon regulations, any cost-benefit regulatory impact analysis would reveal the fact that Kentuckians are set to bite the bullet big time. And that’s probably precisely why federal regulatory agencies so often neglect to even provide one.

Milton Friedman Day, 101st birthday edition

This morning the Bluegrass Institute presented its Friedman Legacy Day event from the Midwest Church of Christ in the west end of Louisville. The site was appropriate given both the Midwest Church’s commitment to bettering local kids through school choice activism, and Friedman’s trailblazing in the area of that very important subject.3965809597_f5f38e74d9

The Bluegrass Institute was please to host both Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green. Both espoused the importance of school choice in the commonwealth, in particular the need to get true charter schools passed in the very near future. The fact that both Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Mitch McConnell have voiced the need for school choice in Kentucky is promising news toward that end.

Guests were also treated to a panel discussion with all four members of the Institute’s Board of Scholars. The scholars discussed some of the other important aspects of Milton Friedman’s legacy included compulsory school attendance, vouchers and the importance of economic freedom at home and abroad.

Stay tuned for exclusive video of the event!

New bill protects coal ash industries in Kentucky

In the wake of the loss of nearly 6,000 coal mining jobs lost in the past two years, and the shut down of over 200 coal-fired power plants, new federal legislation was passed last week in a bid to give some much needed support to coal industries like ours in the commonwealth.kentucky energy equation

H.R. 2218, known as the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Actpassed on July 25, ensures that one of the most valuable left-overs of coal combustion, “coal ash,” will be allowed to be recycled into even more valuable products. The bill allows the states to develop permitting programs for the industry as long as the permits meet the environmental standards stipulated in the law.

As we reported in our “2013 Bluegrass Energy Report: The EPA’s Economic Impact on Kentucky,” the EPA previously classified all valuable coal ash as toxic materials, though even according to the EPA’s own findings, these byproducts “rarely reach the Resource and Conservation Recovery Act hazardous waste characteristic levels.” The EPA’s stance on coal ash cost Kentuckians at least $1.5 billion per year due to the EPA’s intervention into coal ash product markets like bowling balls and concrete mix.

This bill is another small victory in the war on coal. One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Andy Barr, R-KY, had this to say following the successful passage of the bill:

“H.R. 2218 will bring much-needed regulatory certainty to job creators by blocking the EPA from mindlessly classifying coal ash as hazardous waste, which would put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and drive up electricity and construction costs. Kentucky’s job-creating signature industries benefit from the many uses of coal ash.  It keeps electricity costs low for Kentucky families, provides low-cost durable constriction materials, and reduces the amount of waste going into surface impoundments and landfills.”

Obama’s EPA knows that his executive orders will cost jobs and raise energy rates

A memo circulated among radical environmentalists and recently leaked to the public provides further evidence that the current administration’s executive orders and unilateral mandates to shut down the coal industry are not designed for the working man, or for Kentucky families.kentucky energy equation

The memo, which advises supporters on what language to use when pushing for these unprecedented policies, recommends discussing “modernizing and retooling power plants” but not to take credit for “net job increases.”

Hmmm….so it seems the obvious fact that using executive orders and draconian regulations to shut down entire industries – including Kentucky’s energy sector – won’t result in net job increases (what a surprise) is actually not lost on the current administration!

The memo goes on to advise greenies to avoid debating “the increase in electricity rates” and to “Instead pivot to health & clean air message.” Apparently, the same greenies also believe that the best way to dupe the general public into supporting Obama’s EPA is by using language such as “cutting carbon pollution from power plants” instead of “regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.”

The fact that those pushing most strongly to shut down our energy sector realize – as shown through the leaked memo – that jobs will be lost and electricity rates will rise as a result should outrage Kentuckians.

Utah lawmaker provides fresh take on compulsory school attendance

School choice proponents received a breath of fresh air recently from a lawmaker speaking on the issue of compulsory school attendance.

Unfortunately, that lawmaker doesn’t serve the Bluegrass State.

Last week, Utah state senator Aaron Osmond spoke out against his state’s compulsory attendance laws, putting much of the blame on this mandate for public schools’ inefficiencies and unacceptable student performance. As Osmond noted, until the 20th century, a primary education was viewed as a privilege, not a prison sentence – and teachers were viewed as highly respected education professionals aiding in the parents’ ultimate responsibility of raising their children right.

Osmond continued:

“As a result [of compulsory education laws], our teachers and schools have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness.”

This gutsy statement from the first-term lawmaker comes fresh on the heels of Kentucky Senate Bill 96 which – now that 55% of schools in the commonwealth have signed on – forces students in any school district in the commonwealth to attend school until age 18. The obvious costs that will result are those associated with the hiring of more teachers, procuring new text books and resources, and the classroom costs of attempting to force a traditional education on students who’d strongly prefer to be elsewhere.

However, the more subtle costs are what will hurt young people most – and those are associated with the lost wages and on-the-job experience these teenagers could have received outside the classroom.

Kentucky’s per capita unfunded public pension liability is one of the worst in the nation

We’ve all heard about the sorry state of Kentucky’s unfunded public pension liability, which currently stands at over a whopping $30 billion. But how does this figure compare to the rest of the states?pension reform

Not good at all.

In fact, according to recent research done by Morningstar, Inc., the only state whose public pension liabilities are less funded than Kentucky’s is Illinois, notorious for being one of the most corrupt states in the nation. So…what does that make Kentucky, whose public pension liability is just a hair over half funded?

To put this in perspective, neighboring Tennessee has funded their public pension liability 92.1% of the way.

Looking at unfunded public pension liability per capita doesn’t help Kentucky’s dismal state of financial affairs. At $4,488 per denizen of the Bluegrass State, Kentucky ranks No. 7 out of all the state for the amount of public pension burden per capita. No state in the region comes close to that figure besides Illinois.

Given these statistics, it’s no wonder Kentuckians are calling out for true public pension reform in the commonwealth.


Free speech assaulted by Kentucky’s attorney general

Kentucky may possess the embarrassing distinction of being one of only eights states that has yet to enact charter school legislation, and of being sorrowfully behind neighboring Indiana and Tennessee when it comes to ensuring employees the right-to-work.Free_Speech

But we recently acquired yet another unenviable feather to place in our worn and tethered caps: apparently we’re now known throughout the free market movement as sultans of censorship.

Just this week, the Institute for Justice (IJ) filed suit against Kentucky’s attorney general for ordering John Rosemond, a licensed psychological associate and one of the longest-running advice columnists in the commonwealth, to cease publishing counsel in Bluegrass newspapers to struggling families –  or face fines and jail time. 

As the IJ notes, advice-gurus like Dear Abby and Dr. Phil were never faced with the use or threat of government violence for providing educated opinions to the downtrodden. So why is the commonwealth threatening Rosemond?

One answer could be found by “following the money.” Also involved in the witch-hunt against John Rosemond is Kentucky’s psychological licensing board, a group with government-granted powers to pick and choose who is allowed into the business of providing psychological advice. If someone like Rosemond finds a way around their state-enforced monopoly, just think of the money it’d cost this government-favored organization.


We’ll have more as this story of outright censorship develops.