Even the Prichard Committee admits that Kentucky’s chronic achievement gaps continue after more than a quarter of a century of education reform. So, it is clear Kentucky needs to try something different – something we have not heard about over and over again for the past quarter of a century.
I’ve recently been writing about a highly problematic report from Johns Hopkins University titled “For All Kids, How Kentucky is Closing the High School Graduation Gap for Low-Income Students.” The Hopkins report has many problems, but the biggest issue is fundamental. The report assumes that diplomas awarded in different states require the same level of academic achievement. That is an unfortunate stretch. So, in this blog, I examine some limited academic evidence from the ACT for states that can be reasonably compared to each other. The results further undermine the Hopkins report’s major assumption.
Click the “Read more” link to see the full story.
As Kentucky’s education leaders debate education reforms again, a thought-provoking article in the Denver Post is worth consideration.
In “If educators don’t buy in, education reform fails” author Dick Hilker points to an obvious history of remarkable resistance within the nation’s education system to making substantial changes. Although there have been massive efforts at education reform across the country in the past quarter of a century, Hilker points out that:
“Overall, there has been little improvement.”
Hilker knows why, adding:
“Alas, the troops — most of the educators — aren’t buying in.”
It’s a very obvious problem in Kentucky. Click the “Read more” link to see how obvious.
Legislation during this year’s General Assembly requiring disclosure of public retirement benefits for all current and former lawmakers, “including their name, status, and projected or actual retirement benefit payments,” passed the Republican-run state Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support from all 38 senators and flew through the Democratically controlled House State Government Committee with 19 of the 21 members who voted approving it.
Only Reps. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, and Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, voted “no” on Senate Bill 45 filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, which also had bipartisanship sponsorship as Republicans Joe Bowen, Danny Carroll, C. B. Embry Jr., Chris Girdler, Mike Wilson and Max Wise were joined as cosponsors by Louisville Democrat Perry Clark.
Opening up the legislators’ pension plan, which, mysteriously, is the healthiest of Kentucky’s retirement funds – while the Kentucky Employees Retirement System teeters on the verge of insolvency – would shed much-needed light on how part-time politicians collect $40,000 legislative salaries but retire with six-and-seven-figure publicly funded, but secretly maintained, pensions.
Even committee chairman Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, a vocal opponent of shining the light on the commonwealth’s crisis-ridden pension systems, voted “yes” to giving citizens access to information regarding his own retirement benefits.
Amazing, isn’t it, what can happen during political full moons known as election years?
The fact that it’s campaign season likely is the reason House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, made sure all 100 House members didn’t get to – or have to, depending on each lawmaker’s perspective – vote on SB 45.
Adkins in 2005 voted for House Bill 299 – also known as the “Greed Bill” – when it passed with overwhelming support from both parties.
Stumbo as a result of HB 299 stands to reap an estimated lifetime legislative-pension windfall of $1.2 million – the difference in the amount he’ll amass should he fulfill his life expectancy versus what he would have gotten without the spike provided by the Greed Bill.
HB 299 allows Stumbo to use his three highest years’ of salary when he was attorney general in determining the size of his legislative pension rather than the much-smaller paycheck he received during his 31 years in the General Assembly.
While I don’t profess to understand how brown cows eat green grass and produce white milk, how many Kentucky taxpayers can possibly comprehend how a part-time politician earns a $40,000 salary, becomes attorney general for four years in an entirely different branch of government and winds up raking in millions in legislative-pension payments?
Putting transparency of politicians’ pensions to a vote on the House floor during an election season would have placed recalcitrant members of both parties who want to maintain Frankfort’s good-ole-boy secrecy in a tough spot.
These are mostly political dinosaurs who don’t want to open the blinds; they also don’t want a political challenger for their seat calling them on their opposition to open and accountable government.
Putting transparency for a vote before the entire House just ahead of an election would have successfully forced an overwhelming majority of lawmakers to do the right thing – even if for impure reasons.
Since Stumbo didn’t call the bill for a vote by the entire House, politicians like Yonts and Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, who voted “yes” in committee but failed to provide leadership needed to move the legislation to the floor for a vote, can go home and campaign on claims they support openness while breathing a sigh of political relief that most of their colleagues were denied the opportunity to weigh in.
As a result, taxpayers still don’t know how many pension checks Richards will collect thanks to his 40-year rumble in Frankfort, during the latter part of which Kentucky’s retirement systems – with the exception of the politicians’ plan – has spiraled downward.
It took a lot of questioning and independent research, but the authors of a recent report from Johns Hopkins University called “For All Kids, How Kentucky is Closing the High School Graduation Gap for Low-Income Students” finally admitted – only after we collected some rather compelling evidence – that they altered high school graduation rate data in a federal report. The Hopkins researchers did that without initially being up front about what they did.
The impact of this tardy admission coupled with a number of other problems – such as the continuing flaw in the report’s fundamental assumption that high school diploma awards in different states indicate comparable academic achievement – significantly undermine the value of the report.
Hillary Clinton supported charter schools before being endorsed by the big teachers’ unions and receiving access to their cash and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Clinton wrote in her memoir “It Takes a Village” that she favors “promoting choice among public schools,” while later claiming “charter schools are a way of bringing teachers and parents and communities together.”
Now, after guzzling union-flavored Kool-Aid, Clinton is flip-flopping so hard against reasonable education reforms, including charter schools – claiming they “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them,” that even President Obama’s supporters howl.
Peter Cunningham, an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education during Obama’s first term, disapproves of the Democratic Party platform on “The 74,” claiming it “affirms an education system that denies its shortcomings and is unwilling to address them.”
A report from the highly respected Manhattan Institute in Clinton’s adopted state of New York suggests her newfound claims are flat wrong, finding that students who are disabled, learning English or performing low on standardized tests “are as likely to remain in charters as in traditional public schools.”
Charter-school opponents in Kentucky have pushed similar misinformation for the past several years.
One of their favorite claims: charter schools get rid of disruptive, troubled or low-performing students whereas traditional public schools must accept all enrollees. Therefore, the argument goes, charters appear to perform better in many areas of the country because of such attrition.
However, Manhattan’s analysis of enrollment and test-score data from New York City, Denver and an anonymous urban Midwest school district “found that low-performing students are just as likely to exit traditional public schools as they are to exit charters.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial page responded to Clinton’s backflip by suggesting: “If you want to see public schools that really don’t tolerate disruptive students, go to your average rich suburban school.”
Charter schools are more likely to attract those students in danger of failing in the traditional public schools to which they have been assigned; these are the students about which charter-school opponents – which now apparently includes Clinton – feign concern.
According to the Center for Education Reform, a greater percentage of charter-school versus traditional-school enrollees are black (28 percent to 16 percent), Hispanic (28 percent to 23 percent) or qualify for free and reduced-price lunches (63 percent to 48 percent).
Charters in growing cities like Atlanta aren’t only enrolling more minority and low-income students, but they’re succeeding in getting these children to a level of academic proficiency that gives them a fighting chance in life.
Black students in Atlanta charter schools significantly outperformed their fellow blacks in traditional public schools in nearly every key academic category on the 2015 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), including in fourth-grade reading (216-199) and eighth-grade reading (266-243) and math (278-255).
Meanwhile, Kentucky School Report Cards show the academic-achievement gap between black and white eighth-graders in the Jefferson County Public Schools – Kentucky’s largest school district – widened between 2012 and 2015 on the ACT’s EXPLORE test results in all key academic areas, including English, math, reading and science.
The students on the losing end of this gap are the ones who would most benefit from charters in Kentucky – one of only seven states that still doesn’t allow charter schools.
Obama supporter Cunningham calls out Clinton and the Democratic Party platform for its proposed restrictions on charters in ways that would make them less effective.
It’s “a step backwards” that will particularly harm “low-income black and Hispanic children,” he adds.
Kentucky Democrats should take a cue from Cunningham and embrace the approach taken by many of their fellow Dems nationwide, including United States Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who, when he was Delaware’s governor, not only signed a bill opening his state to charter schools, but also enrolled his two sons in charters.
More than 14,000 children are enrolled in Delaware’s charters today because a Democratic governor dared to put his bill-signing pen where his principles – not teachers’-union lackeys – stand.