Lifezette, a new online publication from well-known Fox News personality and radio talk show host Dr. Laura Ingraham, doesn’t pull any punches with:
“Let’s say this again for the umpteenth time: Don’t use taxpayer money on sports arenas.”
Barry Petchesky of the hip sports site Deadspin.com offered that jewel while covering the decision by the American Hockey League’s Portland (Maine) Pirates to pack up and leave the city where they shot pucks for 23 years.
That’s not all they left, either.
They looted the locals like good pirates, leaving them holding an empty bag while paying off $34 million worth of bonds covering major renovations made to their arena in response to the team’s demands just two years ago.
Plus, the county remains on the hook for the arena’s annual operating losses, which were $600,000 last year alone with the hockey team still facing off at center ice.
Like Caribbean buccaneer Jack Sparrow, who answered Norrington’s charge that “You are without a doubt the worst pirate I have ever heard of,” with his classic “but you HAVE heard of me” line, it’s very good that the Portland’s minor-league Pirates’ abandonment of their enclave is attracting penalty calls nationwide.
Even worse, however, are communities whose clocks have been cleaned previously by sports arena-seducing pirates who are back asking for more.
It’s happening in Louisville, where swashbucklers once upon a time negotiated a bizarre lease on behalf of the University of Louisville Athletic Association (ULAA), which has resulted in the KFC Yum! Center arena authority losing nearly $10 million a year while ULAA – the facility’s primary tenant – rakes in more than $30 million annually.
Guess who pays for that $10 million loss each year? Why it’s Captain Fischer’s taxpaying mates!
Now, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration is gauging whether taxpayers will endure another pillaging in the form of a new soccer stadium.
So let me get this straight: Fischer’s mates are paying $10 million a year to cover Yum!’s losses, and he’s actually serious about spending millions more – possibly even going into debt – to provide Louisville FC, which is a two-year-old minor-league soccer franchise, with a new soccer-only pitch?
No wonder the city’s been coy for months and won’t talk about projected costs and whether it will ante up.
You can bet a pirate’s fortune it’s itching to do so.
It’s already sent $75,000 to Conventions, Sports & Leisure International in Minnesota to study the feasibility of a new 10,000-seat soccer stadium in the River City.
Why waste taxpayer dollars to find out what we already know? Similar facilities in other parts of the country cost anywhere from $13 million to a whopping $35 million.
However, Pirates of any kind – especially economic ones – can be very persuasive when they really want to spend someone else’s money.
They are good at offering sweet nothings to seduce their prey.
Among their favorites: “This improves the ‘quality of life’ in our city.”
It’s a nebulous promise, at best.
Or, how about: “Build it, and even if it struggles, the economy around it will develop and grow.”
That’s what we were told about the Yum! Center, too, where the Tax Increment Financing District around the arena has yielded only about half the promised revenue.
Speaking of promises, University of Louisville associate economic professor Jose Fernandez told Insider Louisville in January – when the city began considering a shiny new stadium – the empirical research doesn’t support claims by zealous soccer fans and big-government mayors that sports venues create notable economic benefits.
“Several independent studies have found no statistically significant positive relationship between sports facility construction and economic development,” the intellectually honest Fernandez said. “This result is contrary to most results from promotion consultants, but let’s face it, it is their job to find positive economic impacts.”
Just like it’s an economic pirate’s job to find the taxpayer-funded treasure.
It’s time for those taxpayers to tell them: “Shove off. Look somewhere else.”
Gov. Matt Bevin’s decision to veto legislation guaranteeing any Kentucky student a free ride to community college during the 2016-17 school year is one of his best for several reasons:
- The commonwealth cannot afford such handouts.
Even if it was a sound idea, how can Frankfort make a worthy case for providing free community-college tuition while facing a $37 billion unfunded pension liability that’s forcing state agencies and universities to cut spending to the point of furloughing workers?
- It’s unending.
The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship program would forever cost at least $25 million per budget, resulting in a minimum of $125 million spent during the next decade alone on free college rather than stabilizing the commonwealth’s sinking pension system.
Most new government programs like this never see a sunset. Such endeavors instead tend to grow while taking on a bureaucratic life and additional costs of their own.
They are, as President Ronald Reagan bemoaned: “the nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth.”
- A lack of thoughtful preparation plagued this legislation.
The governor gets a shout-out not only for his veto but for confronting this bill’s sloppiness.
The legislation contained “hastily written and overly broad provisions” and failed to “permit funding to be targeted based on true need and, with limited funding, may leave behind those students with the greatest need,” Bevin wrote in his veto message.
Much more debate about this policy is needed before moving ahead.
Such a discussion must include how this program would be embedded into Kentucky’s current, grim budget context.
- It’s economic engineering that pits institutions against each other.
While Jay Box, president of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System, praised the campaign for free community college as “a great opportunity,” Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell announced $6 million in cuts and a 4.5 percent tuition increase for the 2016-17 school year, and the Council on Postsecondary Education approved another round of steep tuition increases for the commonwealth’s universities.
University professors and administrators don’t support the free scholarship plan for obvious reasons: it favors community colleges over four-year institutions, many of whom have divested from two-year degree programs while initiating transfer agreements that allow students to meet their general education requirements at these other schools before transferring to universities.
The proposed legislation would upset that negotiated balance.
- It plunders personal responsibility.
Let’s see the hands of those who believe college students should have at least some personal financial stake in their own education? Don’t be afraid to raise that hand, now.
Not only is this columnist not going to chastise you for “lacking compassion” or “favoring the rich over the poor,” I’m raising both hands!
There, there. Lots of hands are going up, because most reasonable taxpayers forced to pay for such programs understand: nothing is truly free and the money will come from somewhere.
While we’re at it, a note to parents who let students in this situation live at home while attending college: insist they get a job, pay rent and receive some higher education in the area of personal responsibility – something badly needed in this commonwealth.
- It’s unnecessary.
Any student armed with determination, scholarships, financial aid and even halfway-willing guardians can get themselves a stellar education in Kentucky.
According to CollegeCalc, the cost of tuition, books and supplies at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College was $4,600 per year for in-state residents during the 2014-15 academic year.
Nearly all – 94 percent – received financial aid which, on average in 2013-14, was $4,675 – almost exactly the same amount as that per-year tuition.
It’s more than possible for students who might otherwise mooch for two years to instead live at home, get the average amount of financial aid to do their general education work and save Kentucky taxpayers millions of dollars.
It’s not just a law; it’s actually found in Section 183 of the Kentucky Constitution!
Kentucky is supposed to have “an efficient system of common schools.”
However, it looks like that news isn’t getting out – not to legislators and not to state and lower-level school officials, either.
Click the “Read more” link for some examples of how state and local school leaders don’t seem interested in making efficient use of our tax dollars in their school systems.
As we previously commented, the Courier-Journal and The Hechinger Report have collaborated on a series of articles about education in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) during the Common Core era. We’ve already discussed the articles on achievement gaps for special education students and the one for racial minorities. In both cases, the Courier and Hechinger don’t paint a happy tale for these students in the era of Common Core.
The third article in the series examines the performance of students who are English Language Learners (ELL), officially termed “Limited English Proficient (LEP) in Kentucky Department of Education reports. Unlike the picture for racial minorities and special education students, the picture for English learners, who are mostly immigrants, isn’t quite so clear. However, it does look like LEP students have also fared poorly in the era of Common Core in Kentucky
The Courier-Journal and The Hechinger Report are continuing their series on education in Kentucky under Common Core, which we first noted yesterday. However, the next article, which deals with how students with learning disabilities are faring in the era of Common Core, provides some interesting issues to discuss.
First off, consider the titles the editors at the Courier and Hechinger chose.
Hechinger’s headline shouts:
To put it mildly, the Courier’s “take” is dramatically different:
The text of the articles appears to be the same in both publications, even though the editors’ main takes are dramatically different.
In this case, I think that Hechinger gets it more accurately. Here’s why.
The article does discuss the growing gap between students with disabilities and those without, which mirrors the growing white minus black achievement gaps we talked about in our earlier blog and in our “Blacks Continue Falling Through Gaps in Louisville’s Schools, The 2016 Update” report back in February. However, the Courier/Hechinger article also claims that the Field Elementary School in Jefferson County (Louisville area) is doing a really great job of improving performance for learning disabled students.
The published test scores do show impressive improvement for Field’s learning disabled students over the past few years, but there is a fly in the ointment – or maybe it’s an elephant.
You see, Field shows up in our Blacks Continue Falling Through Gaps report with the second largest white minus black achievement gap of all Jefferson County elementary schools. The gap is just shy of a staggering 50 percentage point difference!
That sounds ominous already, but there is more.
The 2015 Kentucky School Report Card for Field Elementary shows that in both reading and math, the proficiency rate for the school’s African-American students was only 27.6 percent. However, the school’s overall reported proficiency rate for its students with disabilities was much higher at 47.4 percent.
Does that really make sense? Should African-American kids, as a group, score much lower than kids with known learning disabilities?
Should this school really be used as a model for the rest of Louisville, something the article says is being considered by Jefferson County Schools?
Or, do we really need more answers about what is happening in this school such as an explanation of how scores for all black students can be so much lower than scores for students who are acknowledged to have learning issues?