“I’ve heard the Courier-Journal call out Kentucky Republicans for applauding Gov. Bevin’s actions after having criticized President Obama’s executive orders over the past seven years. The flaw in this argument is there is a statute on the books in Kentucky specifically authorizing Gov. Bevin’s actions. There is no such federal statute to authorize the president’s actions. The contrast could not be starker: Gov. Bevin’s executive orders reorganizing various boards and commissions have been issued pursuant to statutory authority, while President Obama’s attempts to rule by executive fiat are often directly contrary to statutory authority.” –Rep. Phil Moffett, R-Louisville, in his op-ed in today’s (Louisville) Courier-Journal
Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters, who attended the recent Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) summit in Pikeville, is quoted on Watchdog.org. Waters points out that Gov. Matt Bevin’s announcement that the duplicative and costly KentuckyWired project had been scaled back is a ‘partial victory’ for taxpayers.
Read the complete article here.
The Bluegrass Institute also is quoted in a separate Watchdog.org article found here, here, here, here, here and here covering Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler’s announcement at the SOAR gathering that the feds would waste more taxpayer dollars on government broadband projects.
Are Washington’s policies these days regarding everything from bathrooms to broadband intentionally designed to systematically trash the constitutionally protected power of states, local governments and even the people themselves?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Whatever the intentions, those are the results.
Where, for example, does the U.S. Constitution even remotely allow a president enthroned in Washington to dictate the bathroom policies for transgender students in a school district 800 miles away in McCracken County, Kentucky?
That issue is at the crux of Gov. Matt Bevin’s decision to make Kentucky the 12th state to join a federal lawsuit against President Obama’s bathroom guidelines, which include threats to withhold federal funding from school districts that prohibit transgender students from using bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities of the biologically opposite sex, and which fail to address transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns.
Whatever your personal beliefs regarding specific issues, you should think long and hard about supporting this level of federal intrusion into policies best decided by school boards or – at the very least – by individual states.
Such federal overreach blatantly ignores the Tenth Amendment, which clearly places power for most decisions in the hands of states and their individual citizens, not the federal government and its bureaucracy.
Today it’s transgender bathroom policy; tomorrow could bring an unwelcomed intrusion by Washington into an area for which you’re on the other side of the field.
Today, you may be giddy about withholding funding for school officials who don’t address transgender students by their preferred names or pronouns.
But what happens in January if a newly inaugurated Trump administration hands down “Guidelines for Protecting American Business” threatening to withhold federal financial aid for any student caught speaking against corporations while sipping his favorite white chocolate mocha Frappuccino in the local coffee house?
Will you then still be supportive of Washington and its growing brand of intrusion?
One’s goose is another’s gander, but the sauce poured over all is the same.
Control and ideology are the ingredients that dominate Washington’s sauce these days.
For instance, instead of proposing policies that place females in vulnerable environments, why didn’t the administration at the very least suggest a compromise that guides school districts to construct single-occupancy bathrooms, allowing transgender students a private facility where they could lock the door and access to safe bathroom facilities for all kids?
Because this mandate isn’t really about civil rights or protecting a minority – a very minority – group of people from discrimination.
Rather, it’s about trampling almost everyone else’s rights to privacy and expectations of simple decency and safety.
On a larger scale, it’s about advancing a goose-stepping ideology that controls as much of American life as possible.
It’s also a clue as to why the federal government is becoming obsessed with cutting into the private sector’s marketplace when it comes to policies regarding Internet access.
Someone should ask Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, who brought his arrogant government-should-control-all-broadband message to the recent Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) conference in Pikeville, to justify his agency’s recent attempts to overturn state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina limiting the intrusion and failure of costly government-owned broadband networks.
Where does the U.S. Constitution even remotely allow an unelected FCC bureaucrat enthroned in Washington to overturn laws passed by elected legislators while mandating those same states must allow projects like the already colossal failure known as KentuckyWired?
Such projects have gone bankrupt in other states while placing private Internet providers at huge competitive disadvantages. They also cannot be properly maintained in light of government’s slowness and technology’s speed, including government’s tardiness in responding in anywhere close to a timely manner to the light-speed advancement of broadband technology.
Applying this same principle at the state level, when Frankfort’s politicians were offered less than $30 million in federal funding to barely subsidize KentuckyWired – a duplicative, costly proposal that the Beshear administration prior to leaving office wanted to turn into a statewide, 3,400-mile broadband network that would cost at least 10 times that amount – how much thought did they give to whether the project is something government at any level should be doing?
Apparently not nearly enough.
Now, Gov. Bevin has announced a scaled-down version of KentuckyWired contained primarily to eastern Kentucky.
The ideal would be to get rid of the project altogether and let the private sector do the broadband building – something Beshear did his best to ensure would not happen by creating a contract that would cost Kentucky taxpayers more than $100 million just to cancel.
At least with this downsizing, the damage will be contained.
A new tool from the Education Trust allows quick state-to-state comparisons of 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and changes over time from 2003 to 2015.
Of course, as we have pointed out before, it’s essential when doing such comparisons to break the scores out by race, which the new tool allows, in order to reach accurate and credible conclusions.
Here are some interesting comparisons I worked up that compare Kentucky’s white and African-American students’ NAEP scores in math and reading over time to those for Arizona, a charter school-rich state.
(Note: On these graphs, higher performance plots in the upper right quadrant, the place where you find Arizona’s (AZ) dot.)
This first graph shows how Arizona’s white eighth-grade students posted a higher math score than Kentucky’s white eighth-graders in 2015 (about 297 versus Kentucky’s 281 score, as plotted along the vertical axis) and more improvement over time between 2003 and 2015 (about a 14-point improvement versus Kentucky’s 4-point gain, as plotted on the horizontal axis).
Overall, charter rich Arizona was both a “Higher Performing” and “Higher Improving” state, while Kentucky fell in what the Education Trust shows as the “Lower Performing – Lower Improving” quadrant.
Now, here is how both states’ African-American students did on NAEP Grade 8 math.
Once again, Kentucky falls in the “Lower Performing – Lower Improving” part of the graph while Arizona is classed as “Higher Performing – Higher Improving.”
Of course, Kentucky reportedly does better on NAEP reading. Click the “Read more” link to see if that reputation holds out for the Grade 8 NAEP Reading results for Kentucky versus Arizona.
Teachers’ retirement-system bureaucrats who stand guard over the commonwealth’s unsustainable public pension gold mine would have us believe that retirement policies are too obscure and mysterious for taxpayers to grasp.
Rather, the real concern of these guardians of our public-pension system is that enough taxpayers will grasp the full extent of the generosity of these benefits and conclude: “we simply cannot afford such luscious benefits.”
Considering pension payments are determined in large part by salaries, such will likely be the response of many Louisville taxpayers in light of a recent survey released by the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) showing its teachers are among the nation’s highest-paid instructors.
The JCPS salary schedule reveals that Rank One teachers with 25 years’ experience pulled in $81,887 during the 2015-16 school year, up from $80,256 in 2014-15 and $79,462 in 2013-14.
Teachers who want to use their three highest annual salaries in determining the size of their pension checks must be at least 55 years old and have taught for a minimum of 27 years.
Many teachers retire after 30 to 33 years in the classroom, allowing them to boost their pensions by including their three highest annual salaries as well as taking full advantage of a service-credit rating that increases after working for three decades.
While the salaries in JCPS are higher – much higher, in many cases – than those for teachers in other parts of the commonwealth, the salaries for Louisville’s teachers do reflect the type pay – and thus level of pensions – amassed by many administrators across the state.
Using the legislatively approved formula, a Rank One teacher in Louisville who retires after 33 years can expect an annual pension of $67,649, or $5,637 monthly.
I reached that retirement amount simply by multiplying the average of those three highest years of salary mentioned for JCPS’ Rank One teachers by the service credit that all Kentucky teachers get – 2.5 percent for the first 30 years and 3 percent for each additional year.
It adds up to an 84 percent service credit and a bountiful pension for a retiree who works for less than 190 days annually for 33 years, with the bounty coming from taxpayers, many of whom work many more days per year yet cannot even afford their own retirement plans, or certainly not benefits as rich as Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) pensions.
Add in the value of unused sick days – which is not included in that $5,637 monthly check for the JCPS Rank One retiree I mentioned earlier – and teachers’ pension checks grow like Jack’s beanstalk.
State law allows teachers to embed 30 percent of the total value of all unused sick days throughout their career – a maximum of 10 days per year and 300 per career – into the formula determining their pensions.
Applying state law, the value of each sick day is determined by taking KTRS retirees’ final annual salary – $81,887 in the case of JCPS – and dividing it by 185 days, which in the case of Louisville’s veteran instructors equals $442.63. The law allows retirees to apply 30 percent of the total value of their unused sick days to determine their lifetime pensions.
If this veteran JCPS teacher accumulates 150 – or half – of the unused sick days allowed by law, she not only gets a check for $17,358 when she retires (30 percent of the value of those unused sick days minus 12.855 percent that goes into the KTRS), she also gets to apply that amount to her retirement in a way that expands the size of those pension checks for a lifetime.
In the end, our JCPS retiree’s annual pension will jump an additional $5,577 each year to more than $73,000 (not including a 1.5 percent annual cost-of-living increase) for the rest of her life just for – as the late Yogi Berra might have said – doing what she’s already paid to do.
The Courier-Journal reports that “Kentucky ranks 19th in higher ed spending!”
The Courier references a report from Wall Street 24/7 that shows Kentucky’s annual higher ed. spending per student is $6,898.
The highest spending state is Wyoming, with annual higher ed. spending per student of $17,300.
The lowest spending state is New Hampshire with annual higher ed. spending per student of $2,591. Some other surprise low-spenders also come from the Northeast. They include Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
Imagine that – “Blue States” putting up a lot less support for their colleges than Kentucky.