“Kentucky is a beautiful jewel in the mosaic that is the United States of America. Unfortunately, years of bad policy and crony politics have allowed that jewel to gather dust. Our administration is going to unite with Kentucky voters of both parties to polish that jewel until it shines like a beacon of excellence for all the world to see. The election of 2016 will be written about as a victory for the GOP. It was more than that. A victory was won for the people of Kentucky and the people of America. The roar is coming through loud and clear.” –Gov. Matt Bevin in this Townhall.com op-ed
My retired neighbor — a registered Democrat who dons his own unique version of political agnosticism — reminds me daily how eager he is for the current political warfare to cease.
He’s an equal opportunity critic of both political parties who often shares his (unsolicited) conviction that the level of discontent within the current political environment is such that not even a campaign by “Jesus Christ himself” could satisfy most partisans.
“They would be trying to find some dirt even on him,” he bemoans.
Still, this election season hasn’t been entirely about dirt-digging, at least not here in Kentucky.
For instance, we’ve seen a display of solid bipartisan support for making government less secretive and more accessible to its citizens.
Amongst the partisan rancor associated with Kentucky Republicans wrestling to take control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since 1920 is increased bipartisan momentum for revealing the retirement benefits of all current and former lawmakers.
Both Democratic and Republican candidates in 10 House districts have signed the 67-word Bluegrass Institute Legislative Pension Transparency Pledge that champions shining the bright disinfecting light of transparency on benefits received by lawmakers resulting from both their part-time work in the General Assembly as well as appointments to gravy-train jobs in state government allowing them to pad their political pensions.
Incumbents and candidates who sign the pledge agree to be held accountable for their future statements, votes and commitments related to transparency during the remainder of their political careers.
Granted, some incumbents signed the pledge only after being confronted by challengers for their long-held seats.
“I proudly signed this pledge IMMEDIATELY – unlike my opponent who waited until just days before our debate to suddenly be ‘for transparency,’” tweeted Bowling Green City Commissioner Melinda Hill, who’s challenging Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, for his 20th District seat.
Still, the fact that Richards, who’s held the seat since Jimmy Carter was president, ultimately signed the pledge and voted as a member of the House State Government Committee during this year’s legislative session to make politicians’ retirement information transparent shows he understands: it’s a losing proposition to oppose making information about legislative pensions available to those who fund such perks.
Hopkinsville Democratic Rep. Jeff Taylor, who won a special election in western Kentucky’s 8th District earlier this year, apparently feels the heat of voters’ disapproval of secretive government, agreeing at a recent campaign forum to sign the pledge when confronted by Republican contender and signer Walker Thomas.
Taylor still hasn’t submitted a signed pledge.
Yet considering he agreed to sign under pressure from a campaign opponent indicates he understands it’s politically beneficial to oppose cryptic government.
The fact that pledge signers include at least one of the candidates in most House districts and in 19 of the 27 races identified as being among the most competitive by political strategist Les Fugate, executive vice president of RunSwitch Public Relations, further confirms: transparency is good politics as well as sound public policy.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who faces a challenge to his own 95th District seat in Floyd County from Prestonsburg attorney Larry Brown, a pledge signer, has so far refused to even allow House members the opportunity to vote on transparency bills approved by committees chaired and dominated by his own party.
Doesn’t Stumbo know that the good-ol’-boys’ approach of doubling down on defending the status quo of closed-door government is so yesterday as evidenced by the fact that 30 states — including neighboring Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois — now make information about retirees’ benefits, including names of individual pensioners, transparent?
Doesn’t he recognize that open government is always in vogue?
In a post-election interview covered by the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin specifically said he will work to reject the Common Core State Standards in Kentucky’s public schools. These highly controversial standards currently comprise the state’s reading, writing and math standards. With the new Republican majorities in the Kentucky House and Senate, Governor Bevin is in an excellent position to carry out this promise.
Governor Bevin also said Kentuckians can look forward to more school choice options for parents and students.
We expect a lot of interesting action on these education topics and a number of other policies the Bluegrass Institute has interest in such as right-to-work legislation (also mentioned in the article), and we’ll try to keep you up to date as this exciting new segment in the history of Kentucky unfolds.
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016
Contact: Jim Waters @ (270) 320-4376
(LEXINGTON, Ky.) — Voters handing Kentucky Republicans an overwhelming — and historic — majority in the state House of Representatives during Tuesday’s presidential election clearly indicated support for a more open, transparent and accountable government.
Perhaps nowhere was this clearer than in the 95th District where House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, lost his bid for reelection after snubbing his opponent Larry Brown’s request that he follow the example of several winners in Tuesday night’s campaign and sign the Bluegrass Institute’s Legislative Transparency Pledge.
“Voters made their support for more open, transparent and accountable government by rejecting the refusal of the entrenched House Democratic leadership to keep all transparency policies from moving forward in the Kentucky General Assembly,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said. “They recognize that the environment of transparency is critical to making significant progress toward reforming the commonwealth’s pension, education and health-care policies.”
Forty of the 100 state representatives now have signed the 67-word pledge, which vows support for “making the commonwealth’s legislative pension system fully transparent, including requiring the disclosure of the name, status and projected actual retirement benefits and benefit payments from the Legislators’ Retirement Plan, Judicial Retirement Plan, Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and Kentucky Retirement Systems of all current and former members of the General Assembly.”
“We enthusiastically congratulate all Kentuckians who stepped forward to run for office and help the GOP attain overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate by working very hard and running extremely successful races across the commonwealth,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said. “The Bluegrass Institute will continue to promote those policies that are helping us make Kentucky great: free enterprise, individual liberty and limited — and transparent — government.”
For more information, please contact Jim Waters at email@example.com, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376.
New MIT study says: The replication schools also provided superior performance.
One of the major contentions of charter school critics is that these schools of choice cannot be scaled up or replicated on a larger scale to include more students.
Well, new MIT research on the top-performing charter schools in Boston now undermines those notions.
The story began in 2010 when the number of charter schools in Boston was allowed to increase. As the MIT report puts it:
“Charter operators that the state deemed “proven providers” with track records of success were permitted to expand existing campuses or open new schools in these districts.”
As a consequence Boston’s charter school count rose from 16 to 32 between 2010 and 2014. The fraction of sixth graders attending Boston charters grew from 15 to 31 percent between 2010 and 2015.
Boston’s charters are really popular, so the school system has to run lotteries to determine which students will actually go to a charter school. That provided the MIT research team with a randomized student sample set to evaluate: those who won a lottery position versus those who lost and had to attend a traditional Boston public school.
So, what happened?
The MIT report says:
“Lottery-based estimates reveal that Boston’s charter sector remained effective while doubling in size. Consistent with previous evidence, our results for cohorts applying before 2010 show that a year of attendance at a Boston charter middle school boosted math achievement by between 0.18 and 0.33 standard deviations…and increased English achievement by about 0.1 (standard deviations) during this period.”
Using a conversion found on Page 22 in a recent CREDO study that says each 0.01 of a standard deviation of extra learning equates to 7 days of extra learning, here is how those MIT findings look in more familiar days of learning format.
The obvious extra performance found in Boston’s charter schools is dramatic.
The MIT study continues:
“Results indicate that policymakers selected more effective schools for expansion: proven providers produced larger effects than other charter schools before the reform. Proven providers and other existing charters maintained their effectiveness after the charter expansion.”
Summing up, the MIT report says:
• Policymakers can reliably identify more effective charters.
• Replicating those top performing charters can be very effectively accomplished.
• The new, replication charters perform very well.
• Meanwhile, the parent schools in the replication don’t have to suffer any reduction in their effectiveness, either.
Bottom line: well-run charter programs are not only a win for students, but they can be successfully expanded. Real experience in Boston proves that.
An interesting Op-Ed, authored by a Jefferson County woman named Gay Adelmann, showed up in the Courier-Journal a few days ago. Ostensibly, the article pushes Adelmann’s favored school board candidates. But, her convoluted arguments betray a considerable amount of confusion regarding which entities really control education in the commonwealth.
Bluegrass Institute Scholar Gary Houchens has done a great job outlining those mistakes in his blog, “More inaccuracies from school choice opponents,” and our readers are encouraged to surf to Gary’s blog for the details.
I would, however, like to expand on something that Adelmann and many others in Kentucky do not understand, namely the awkward way the commonwealth’s schools are actually governed. While Adelmann seems to believe that much of the responsibility for what is wrong in her schools should be laid at the feet of the Jefferson County Board of Education, the truth is quite different.