Common Core: Costs versus education performance in Kentucky

Thanks to a presentation on Common Core State Standards I did on Thursday, I’ve been looking at some financial information that relates to the cost changes for public education in the Common Core era in Kentucky.

I have further expanded this analysis, now comparing education revenue during the last five years before Kentucky adopted Common Core to the revenue figures during the first five year of the state’s implementation of Common Core. I also added some interesting test result information covering the same period.

The results don’t look encouraging.

As you look at the information below, keep in mind that Kentucky adopted the Common Core State Standards – sight unseen – in February 2010.

Table 1 below compares how public school per pupil revenue changed in Kentucky during the 5-year period prior to Common Core and the initial 5-year period when the state transitioned to the new standards.

Table 1

Per Pupil Costs Before and During CCSS Era in KY

The blue shaded area shows total per pupil spending figures covering the last five school years before Kentucky adopted the Common Core (2004-2005 to 2009-2010) and the first five school years of Common Core transition (2009-2010 to 2014-2015).

The first column of spending data in the blue shaded part of Table 1 shows total per pupil revenue in Kentucky for the listed school years without any adjustment for inflation. The last column shows spending converted to inflation adjusted, constant 2005 dollars.

Below the rows listing the revenue figures I show the changes in revenue for each 5-year period, shaded in yellow.

As you can see, spending in the five years preceding Kentucky’s adoption of Common Core increased notably more slowly than in the early Common Core transition years. From 2005 to 2010, spending in unadjusted dollars only increased by $1,951, an increase of 23.9 percent. Meanwhile, during the first five years of the state’s Common Core era, spending rose by $2,815, or 27.9%.

The real spending increase is much more dramatic. From 2005 to 2010 the spending increase in real dollars was only $739, just a 9.1 percent rise. In the Common Core transition period from 2010 to 2015, the rise was $1,650, an increase of 18.6 percent, more than double the rise in the pre-Common Core period.

So, spending rates on public education in Kentucky notably accelerated in the Common Core era.

But, how did educational performance trend? For the answer to that, click the “Read more” link.

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BIPPS op-ed in Herald-Leader: Sunshine laws ‘showing their age’

COG2Kentuckians are justifiably proud of their nationally recognized open meetings and records laws, popularly referred to as sunshine laws.

Since the mid-1970s, these laws have enabled the public to hold their officials and agencies accountable through meetings and records access. The policies that support the laws have, as Kentucky’s Supreme Court once noted, “revealed whether public servants are indeed serving the public” and provided “impetus for agencies steadfastly to pursue the public good.”

They are, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis presciently observed, “the best of disinfectants.”

But Kentucky’s sunshine laws, which have not been substantially amended in 23 years, are showing their age.

Successive legal challenges, coupled with a revolution in the dynamics of communication, have exposed deficiencies in the laws that warrant legislative action.

In a newly released report, “Shining the Light on Kentucky’s Sunshine Laws,” the Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government identifies the deficiencies which impede effective implementation and enforcement, focusing on the need for clarification, reconciliation and modernization of the current laws.
Read the entire op-ed here. 

KY Board of Ed gets bad news about projected math proficiency to 2030

The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) was heavily engaged in discussions about the state’s new school accountability system today, and one slide, shown in Figure 1, which didn’t make anyone happy, is shown below.

Figure 1

Kentucky Actual and Projected Elementary - Middle School Math Achievement to 2030

This slide shows actual average math scores from Kentucky KPREP testing in 2014 (blue bars) and 2016 (red bars) along with projected scores for 2018 (green bars) and a full school generation of kids out in 2030. Each section of the graph covers a different group of students:

ALL = All Students
W = White Students Only
AA = African-American Students Only
FR = Free or Reduced Cost School Lunch Eligible Students Only
SWD-IEP = Students with Learning Disabilities Who Have an Individual Education Plan

As you can see, even for the highest performing group, the white students, even 13 years from now the Kentucky Department of Education projects only 73 percent will be proficient. That would be an increase of 24 points from the 49 percent that KDE says were actually proficient in 2014. That works out to a proficiency rate growth rate of 1.8 points per year.

For African-American students, fewer that one in two, just 46 percent, will be proficient in 2030. In 2014, 30 percent were proficient, for a growth rate of only 1.2 points per year

Of course, this is based on Kentucky’s somewhat unproved KPREP test results. For an even more disturbing look at the state’s slow rate of progress, click the “Read more” link.

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Thursday night in Bowling Green: Will major changes promised regarding Kentucky’s education standards really happen?

Bluegrass Institute Staff Education Analyst Richard Innes will discuss the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards that are currently in use in Kentucky at a special meeting of the Southern Kentucky Tea Party on Thursday @ 6:30 pm (central) @ the Holiday Inn Express, 165 Three Springs Road in Bowling Green.

Innes will provide insight into whether these standards will really change after passage of new legislation that says the intent of the Kentucky Legislature is to repeal those standards.

The event is free and open to the public.

Please contact Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters @ or (859) 444-5630.

Where public funds go, the public’s interest still follows

COG LOGOLawmakers in 2012 departed from the old adage “where public funds go, the public’s interest follows” when they amended KRS 61.870(1)(h).

That statute was originally enacted to expand the scope of the open records law to records in the possession of private entities that receive 25 percent or more of their funding from state or local government that relate to publicly funded functions, activities, programs or operations.

The 2012 amendment excluded from the 25 percent calculations public funds these entities receive in compensation for goods or services they provide under a public competitively bid contract. The backstory is unclear, but what is clear is that one such entity, Utility Management Group, LLC, greatly benefited from the amendment.

UMG is a privately owned for profit company which provides management services to public waterworks under competitively bid contracts with local agencies. It receives virtually all of its revenue from these agencies for its services, but has evaded public scrutiny since 2011 when it first disputed its status as a public agency in an appeal to the Kentucky attorney general that was resolved against UMG under the pre-amendment statute in 11-ORD-143.

The resulting legal challenge in the courts continues to the present.

Two unsuccessful attempts have been made to address this inequity legislatively. In 2016 and 2017 Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, introduced legislation aimed at modifying the 2012 amendment to recapture public funds received by private entities, like UMG, in compensation for services performed for public agencies “relating to public utilities, water and wastewater services, fire protection, corrections and incarceration, law enforcement, tax assessment and collection, or waste management.”

Whether the proposed amendment is sufficient to rectify the inequity created by the 2012 amendment is uncertain. It is, at least, a step in the right direction.

An open records decision issued last week by the attorney general resurrected the issue.

In 17-ORD-106, an inmate submitted a request to Community Transitional Services, LLC — a private limited liability company which operates a halfway house under a contract with the Kentucky Department of Corrections — for records relating to an incident that occurred while he was a resident in which he fell.

CTS resisted disclosure of the requested records to its former resident, asserting that it is not a public agency because the public funds it receives from the Department of Corrections compensate it for services provided under a public competitively bid contract.

The inmate was thus denied access to records that almost certainly would have been accessible to him if the incident had occurred in a state facility. See, for example, 09-ORD-209, in which an inmate was afforded access to records relating to his fall in a jail shower.

Whatever the inmate’s interest in those records might be — and the open records law does not permit inquiry into the requester’s intended use of the records he seeks — the public’s interest is substantial.

Conditions in the wholly or partially state funded halfway house that may have contributed to the incident are a matter of legitimate public inquiry. So, too, is the manner in which state funds are expended by the halfway house — a contractor to a public agency — including records that might relate to funds expended to ensure resident safety.

Unfortunately, as the law currently stands the public is foreclosed from accessing records in CTS’s possession that reflect how state funds are being expended.

Whatever the reasons for the 2012 amendment to KRS 61.870(1 )(h), the fact remains “where public funds go, the public’s interest follows.”

An in-depth analysis of this issue can be found here.





Bluegrass Institute News Release – Hear, hear: Congressional conservatives must oppose FDA’s unhealthy proposal

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For Immediate Release:  Tuesday, June 6, 2017                                                    

(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – Kentuckians know to be nervous when it comes to large and stealth power grabs by the federal government and its out-of-control regulatory regime, particularly that of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Such is the case with the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016 co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the House version of which likely will be considered in Washington this week.

Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will hear the bill, must push back against yet another federal takeover of an important health-care sector: hearing loss.

The FDA seeks the power to slap new regulations on over-the-counter hearing aids and pre-empt state hearing-aid laws, leaving Kentucky powerless to create hearing policies that benefit its own citizens and instead turning over more of our healthcare decisions to the federal government.

Supporters of the measure incorrectly claim the bill will increase consumer access to hearing aids, ignoring the fact that over-the-counter devices known as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) already are available for purchase simply by logging on to Amazon or going to your local Best Buy – all without the federal government’s meddling.

“This isn’t the first exposure Kentuckians have had to unhealthy FDA policy,” said Jim Waters, president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank. “Amish farmer Sam Girod right now sits in a Lexington jail cell facing the possibility of a 48-year prison sentence, courtesy of FDA thugs who bullied their way to a felony conviction against the father of 12 simply for producing skin salves made from chickweed and bloodroot, which the government agency accused him of using to turn wild and edible weeds into a potent drug.”

“The FDA has become deaf to its mission of informing and protecting citizens and increasingly opposes our freedoms,” Waters added. “This ill-advised legislation seeks to regulate PSAPs as hearing aids, eliminating the important role doctors play in diagnosing and treating hearing loss along with driving up the costs of current over-the-counter products.”

PSAPs are used for recreational purposes like hunting or birdwatching. They simply amplify noise.

Hearing aids, on the other hand, which are available after a screening, diagnosis and prescription from an audiologist, are highly customized to treat a patient’s unique and complex hearing-loss situation.

Not only will this bill’s regulations fail to improve health outcomes, they likely will have unintended consequences, including regulating PSPAPs used for hunting – all of which raises unnecessary questions about whether the FDA will be open to the availability of hunting aids, a fact which resulted in the Gun Owners of America coming out in opposition to this bill last week.

When Guthrie voted along with his fellow conservatives to repeal the Obamacare monstrosity, the congressman described his vote this way: “We have a historic opportunity to reverse Obamacare’s dangerous course and give power back to the states, patients, and doctors.”

Hear, hear.

It’s time yet again for Guthrie and others who believe in the principles of limited government and individual liberty to rise to the occasion and provide the backstop to this foolhardy regulatory legislation.

For more information or comment, please contact Jim Waters at, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).





What happens when your school accountability program misses important problems

This week the Kentucky Board of Education considers ending state assistance to the Robertson County Public School District. The situation provides a good example of how important decisions about education can be seriously hampered when a state school accountability system hides problems.

[Read more…]

News Release: Bluegrass Institute report stresses the need to modernize Kentucky’s sunshine laws

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For Immediate Release: Monday, June 5, 2017                                                                                         

COG LOGO(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – A report released today by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, urges policymakers to revise and update the commonwealth’s open meetings and open records laws considering “rapid changes in the dynamics of communication and information transmission” and an increasing number of legal challenges.

“Shining the Light on Kentucky’s Sunshine Laws” is written by Amye Bensenhaver, who retired in 2016 after a 25-year career in the commonwealth’s Office of Attorney General in which she authored around 2,000 legal opinions related to the open meetings and open records laws and recently agreed to join the Bluegrass Institute team as the director of its Center for Open Government.

An online copy of the full report, including its executive summary, is available here.

Bensenhaver was a recipient of a 2017 Bluegrass Institute Liberty Award.

“We are committed to preserving what is best in the open meetings and open records law while at the same time eliminating their ambiguities, conflicts and outdated elements,” Bensenhaver said. “We offer recommendations that will ease the burden on public agencies while also reducing the likelihood of legal challenges, preserving valuable administrative and judicial resources and, most importantly, promoting the goal of open, transparent and accountable government at all levels and in all places across the commonwealth.”

Along with highlighting conflicts between open meetings and open records exemptions, which frequently cause confusion and inconsistencies related to government bodies meeting in closed session, the report also calls for more meaningful penalties as a deterrence for not complying with these laws.

“This report offers thoughtful recommendations for updating the commonwealth’s sunshine laws to reflect rapid advances in communication technology while carefully protecting against diluting the entrenched principles of transparency and accountability,” Bluegrass Institute President and CEO Jim Waters said. “We consider events in the evolution of the open records and meetings laws and make the case for closing loopholes exploited by agencies who receive a significant amount of taxpayer funding while firmly defending citizens’ access to their government’s records.

Please contact the Bluegrass Institute at 859.444.5630 or to obtain a hard copy of the report.  

For more information or comment, please contact Amye Bensenhaver at or 502.330.1816 (cell), or Jim Waters at, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).


More from #kyga17: Pension transparency bills book-ended busy session

Back-pledge-iconto-back pension transparency bills – Senate Bills 2 and 3 – provided strong bookends for a busy 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Along with passage during the session’s historic first week of Sen. Chris McDaniel’s SB 3, which makes legislators’ pension benefits subject to open-records requests – an issue pushed by the Bluegrass Institute’s Legislative Pension Transparency Pledge during last year’s election – Sen. Joe Bowen’s SB 2 reorganizes the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board and imposes stricter guidelines for financial disclosures and requires greater investment experience to serve on the retirement systems’ boards.

The bill also requires Senate confirmation for board appointments to the commonwealth’s three retirement systems – the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS), Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) and the Judicial Retirement System (which includes legislators’ pensions) – as well mandating uniform methods of reporting and disclosing investment fees and requiring the chair or vice chair of the House budget committee to join the Public Pension Oversight Board.

Bowen indicated in comments to reporters that an outgrowth of SB 2 will be rejecting “this notion that a fiscal impact of any board action is undefinable” while emphasizing “there are fiscal impacts on every decision made.”

The fact that both Senate Bills 2 and 3 received overwhelming support in the Kentucky House of Representative by votes of 95-1 and 99-0, respectively, indicates that lawmakers and their constituents have an appetite to know – and do – more about what’s happening with taxpayer dollars that previously disappeared into the deep dark hole of the state’s secretive and costly public-pension system.

Principals indeed should lead, but Kentucky’s SBDM laws interfere with that

WDRB reporter Toni Konz posted a couple of Tweets a few days ago regarding the importance of the principal being a real leader in the school. She’s right about that.

Konz Tweets About Principals Leading

BUT, thanks to Kentucky’s awkward School Based Decision Making laws, which come from the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, principal leadership is seriously hampered in Kentucky.

Instead of supporting strong principals, Kentucky’s schools have a mandatory rule-by-committee system, a governance system that often proves problematic in human organizations.

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