Does this count as a government cut?
Gov. Steve Beshear trimmed back some of his earlier pension rhetoric yesterday while speaking in Ashland. Having said last Friday “we have taken a giant step toward placing our pension systems on a sound financial basis,” Beshear shifted significantly downward to yesterday claim HB 1 “will slow down the rate of growth in the state’s unfunded pension liability, which currently stands at about $27 billion.”
That is still likely a bit optimistic, but Beshear seems to be moving in the direction of a clearer picture of how little the legislative effort has actually changed.
I guess it is too much to expect Beshear to call a press conference and say “we spent $300,000 on a photo-op and to set goals for future legislatures that they will ignore. Vote for us!” But even just a little bit more honesty from Beshear on this reflects some enhanced understanding that wasn’t there just a few days ago.
A new survey from the Associated Press shows Americans are not buying a lot of the propaganda being passed around about our schools. I briefly mentioned this poll last week. but the referenced news article only mentioned mathematics.
You get that issue – math is important, and the schools don’t teach it well. By a ratio of almost two to one you think that math, not English (which would include writing in this survey) gets insufficient coverage in our schools.
In fact, a huge 77 percent of you think that the schools place emphasis on the wrong subjects. This, of course, goes to the heart of the argument over the enormous amount of time Kentucky spends on writing. Writing is important, but not if we sacrifice coverage of other subjects.
Anyway, I have now located the full poll on line, and you see through a lot more than the math issue. Here are a few highlights:
Education remains a major concern – A whopping 79 percent of you say it is very important or even extremely important. If education was doing its job, I don’t think so many of you would feel this way.
Preparing Students for College – Only about half think we do a good job. In fact, the ratio that thinks we don’t do well is almost equal to the percentage of students entering Kentucky’s public colleges with inadequate preparation. It looks like families talk when an offspring gets hit with extra bills for remedial college courses.
Preparing for the World of Work – A clear majority say we do no better than a fair job.
Measurement Accuracy of Standardized Tests – Only seven percent of you think these tests work very well. So much for confidence in CATS.
Student Discipline – A whopping 90 percent say this is a somewhat to very serious problem.
Low Expectations – A huge 88 percent of you indicate this is a somewhat to very serious problem. Despite all the noise we hear from schools, apparently a lot of teachers still doom kids through the bigotry of low expectations, and you know it.
World Comparisons – Eighty-eight percent of you know that we lag the rest of the world on math and science tests. Just four percent of you think we are catching up.
Worldwide Graduation Rates – The US does no better than the middle of the pack in the overwhelming opinion of 85 percent of you.
There is a lot more in this survey, but I’ll let you check that out for yourself. Of course, opinions in Kentucky might vary from the national averages, but when such overwhelming numbers are involved, I seriously doubt that any of the results would change enough to show we are doing much better here than elsewhere around the country.
Frankfort’s education establishment is nothing if not consistent.
Kentucky Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Kevin Noland retires at the end of this month. When asked in an interview what he would do differently, he quickly responds that he would spend more money.
From KSBA.org(click to enlarge):
No one should be surprised in the 2010 or 2012 budget session when Frankfort politicians decide not to fund public employee benefits to the level they set a “goal” for in HB 1.
After having all last week and the weekend to analyze the bill ask people about it, Frankfort’s own newspaper doesn’t quite grasp the issue. They surely can’t be counted on to hold anyone’s feet to the fire.
From today’s front page story:
“As part of a compromise plan, legislators met last week and approved a plan to pay the full annual amount by 2025. The biennial budget approved earlier this year funds pensions at only 35 percent of the required amount.
Lawmakers cannot impose financial obligations on future General Assemblies, but they have pledged to increase contributions to 53 percent of the required pension payments by 2013. Payments would reach 77 percent in 2019 and 100 percent by 2025.”
At no point in the story does it explain that even if the annual funding does reach 100 percent in 2025, the $27 billion shortfall will still be there and will have grown.
The State Journal story really was odd. After starting off with a quote from Kentucky Retirement Systems head Mike Burnside that full annual funding by 2025 is “a big if,” is slides downhill quickly. The next move is to quote some expert named Sujit CanagaRetna saying the bill “is a pretty bold step.”
Reporter Paul Glasser could have easily gotten someone to say “no it isn’t” to beef up his front page story, but he did not.
The last third of the story (seriously) is about Illinois.
Grab the link to the story while it lasts, if you want.
Protecting private property rights is very important.
I bring that up because someone who clearly doesn’t belong in the Louisville Courier Journal’s editorial department has broken into the building, hacked into one of the computers, and has written an utterly sensible op-ed about pension reform in Kentucky.
“But it’s Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, that taxpayers should really thank. First, he called attention to the need for reform; then he kept the heat on the House and two governors to act. For three years, he warned that the system was “unsustainable,” as he must have said a thousand (maybe 10,000) times. The state’s “inviolable contract” with retirees and government employees had the potential to swallow up funds for everything from education to police protection, proving that although pension benefits are not a sexy issue, they’re an important one.
So is the work done now? Not even close. The system is better off, but still unsustainable.
The next steps must be to deal more realistically with the health care benefits offered, and to change retirement packages so they “more closely reflect what is available in the private sector,” as Sen. Williams said last week. He predicts that when the national effort to get real about government pensions is complete, part of every public-employee pension plan will include 401(k)-type savings. He’s right, but so far the Democrats have been unable to face up to that.”
Seriously, I’m in favor of a good written attempt to save the state from utter destruction at the hands of its craven politicians, but burglary is wrong. Give them their building back.