The Bluegrass Institute’s staff education analyst, Richard Innes, discusses Common Core State Standards on Monday, August 24, 2015 at 9 am Eastern/8 am Central Time on WBFI 91.5 FM’s Bible Breakfast Club with host Ron Miller. The program is simulcast on WBFK 91.1 FM and can be heard online here.
Attorney General: Subcommittee formed to find ed commissioner violated open-meetings law
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Attorney General Jack Conway’s office sided with the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions in an opinion released today, agreeing that a subcommittee formed in April by the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) to find a new education commissioner failed to comply with the state’s open-meetings law.
“In its rush to hire a new commissioner, the board voted to create a subcommittee made up of personnel from the board and the Kentucky Department of Education with the purpose of finding an executive search firm to assist in the process,” explained Bluegrass Institute staff education analyst Richard G. Innes. “However, neither the board nor the department considered the fact that such a body needed to comply with Kentucky’s open-meetings law. It appears the board and its advisors believed the law didn’t apply and the subcommittee would be free to operate totally in secret.”
The Bluegrass Institute appealed to the Attorney General’s office after the KBE denied its complaint.
Today’s ruling, which can be found online here, concludes that the subcommittee “was a public agency” because the state education board – which created the committee comprised of members who themselves are members of public agencies – is itself a public agency.
“Accordingly, the committee was required to comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Act,” the attorney general’s ruling states.
The Bluegrass Institute requested in its original complaint that the KBE conduct a training session for its members during a future regular webcast meeting with an Open Meetings expert from the Attorney General’s office.
“This will allow not only state board members but also other members of the education community to get educated about their responsibilities to comply with the state’s governmental transparency requirements,” Innes said. “Hopefully, that training will now go forward.”
The Bluegrass Institute calls on the education bureaucracy in Frankfort and every school board around the commonwealth to comply with the open-meetings law.
“This is far from the only case of education agencies in the commonwealth running afoul of these governmental-transparency rules,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.
Since the beginning of the year, the Attorney General’s office has rendered four other decisions where local boards of education and a School-Based Decision-Making Council violated open-meetings requirements.
“Clearly, a problem exists within the education community about what they must do to comply with the transparency laws of the state and whether they even need to comply with these laws,” Waters said. “Such improper committee actions can put contracts in jeopardy and can lead to needless waste of tax dollars.”
For more information or comment, contact Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters at email@example.com or (270) 320-4376, or staff education analyst Richard Innes at (859) 466-8198 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In response to a question from the audience at Wednesday’s Louisville Forum evaluating the Jefferson County Public Schools’ busing policy over the last 40 years, Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters noted that classrooms in schools of choice across the nation often are more diverse than even traditional public-school classrooms in the same districts.
“Parents believe in diversity,” but they also want to ensure that their children receive a good education, Waters told the audience in response to a question concerning how can we achieve both racial diversity and strong academic performance.
For more, click here to read the Louisville Courier-Journal’s coverage of the Forum, which included Teddy Gordon, the winning Louisville attorney in a U.S. Supreme Court case striking down JCPS’s former busing plan, which was based strictly on meeting racial quotas in schools, as unconstitutional; former JCPS board member Debbie Wesslund and Louisville NAACP president Raoul Cunningham.
Following are Waters’ prepared opening comments at the Forum:
In the Bluegrass Institute’s report entitled Blacks (Still) Falling Through Gaps, we found that the vast majority of Jefferson County’s 133 schools have proficiency-rate gaps between black and white students of at least 10 percentage points. This described the situation of 106 schools in reading and 115 schools in math.
Digging a bit deeper, we discovered that around half of the schools have larger gaps exceeding 20 percentage points while some schools have gaps as large as 50 percentage points.
Yet contrary to conventional perception, schools with the some of the largest black-versus-white math-achievement gaps are found not in the city’s west end but in the upscale east end.
For instance, the gap in math performance between black and white students at Dunn Elementary exceeds 55 percentage points. In fact, black students in some eastside schools like Dunn actually have much-lower proficiency rates than their black peers in west-side schools. Dunn’s black students scored only 39 percent proficient in math while in west-end schools like Young and Atkinson elementary, blacks scored much higher at 51 percent and 59 percent respectively.
Does this unbiased data not suggest that a significant number of black students could be better served in a local neighborhood school?
Does busing kids a long way from home enhance their ability to learn and achieve?
Unending reports of serious student misbehavior fights and accidents on buses add still more evidence that those long rides are counterproductive. It was recently reported that even offering bonuses failed to entice enough highly experienced drivers to take on the district’s troubled routes.
After the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the Jefferson County Public Schools’ busing policy designed to achieve a certain racial balance in schools was unconstitutional, the district continued to bus on the stated goal of achieving socioeconomic integration.
Yet 97 percent of the students at Frayser Elementary school were eligible for the free-or-reduced-lunch program and 75 percent are non-white.
More than 90 percent of students at Hazelwood, Cane Run, Cochran and Roosevelt-Perry also are eligible for free-or-reduced-lunch benefits. Meanwhile less than 30 percent of students at Stopher, Norton, Dunn and Greathouse/Shyrock elementary schools are eligible for free-and-reduced-price lunches.
Again – the stated goals of socioeconomic balance seem nowhere close to being achieved.
Ten percent of the more-than-$13,000 we are spending to educate each student in Jefferson County goes simply for transportation. That adds up to be $100 million annually.
Meanwhile … an audit by our state auditor indicates that 94 percent of teachers in the Jefferson County district dip into their own money to purchase classroom items.
Considering the widening achievement gap and lack of resources, wouldn’t common sense dictate that at least a significant portion of the tens of millions of dollars spent just on busing each year be better spent ensuring that students in the classroom get the instruction and supplies they need rather than forcing some type of quota or social experiment on our school system?
Despite the well-intentioned attempts of this district’s past and present administrators, the evidence strongly suggests that not only has the busing policy failed to truly integrate our schools – where all students of any color or socioeconomic background receive a good education – but it perhaps even unwittingly has contributed to those very practices and outcomes that we all find objectionable.
Offering charter schools in neighborhoods would allow a single mother working two or three jobs just to put food on the table and keep the lights on to at least have a chance of being more involved in her child’s education – unlike when her child is bused across the city.
I note that about 58 percent of all the children in the 6,600 public charter schools across the nation are from low-income minority homes.
Charter are public schools of choice, which are having a lot of success in achieving what the leaders of Kentucky’s – and Jefferson County’s – education systems only dream about achieving. They are closing the achievement gap between black and white students in the inner cities of America – in Houston, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in Washington, D.C., in the Bronx and most especially in New Orleans, where the post-Katrina school system was largely rebuilt as a charter system.
If we’re serious about fulfilling the promises of Brown v Board of Education and KERA – the Kentucky Education Reform Act, we will be open to giving parents the opportunity to choose a better education for their children – a policy that has succeeded in doing what we say we want done: ensuring a better education for all children.
A White House report on oppressive occupational licensing requirements reads more like it came from a Rand Paul administration than the current President’s coal-hating crew.
“There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across state lines,” the report states. “Too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh these costs and benefits when making decisions about whether or how to regulate a profession through licensing.”
Then again, sometimes they do.
For example, Kentucky’s licensing requirements for auctioneers previously were the third-most stringent among states – requiring two full years of experience to become a principal auctioneer, compared to the national average of three months.
However, the state’s Board of Auctioneers in Elizabethtown wants to double the number of Kentuckians – currently more than 2,000 – interested in the profession.
“The more, the merrier,” Ken Hill the board’s executive director said. “We don’t have enough now; we’d like to bring in some new blood.”
Hill convinced the board to reduce some entry costs and the experience requirement to a single year.
Barriers remain, including more than a week of required intensive classroom training which cannot be accessed online and is only available at two locations at costs exceeding $1,000.
Still, Hill is moving toward a common-sense licensing approach that he believes achieves “a balancing act” by protecting consumers from fraudulent auctioneer-actors and “fly-by-nighters” without insulating current auctioneers from more competition.
But there’s much about occupational licensing policies that remains unbalanced.
For instance, burdens placed by arbitrary regulations on military families were a primary motivating factor in the White House’s unusually relevant and frank report.
First Lady Michelle Obama in all of her school-lunch-changing glory has recognized that onerous licensing schemes affect the ability of service members and their spouses to find employment.
Military spouses are 10 times more likely to have moved across state lines in the past year than their civilian counterparts and “have a difficult time obtaining a new license each time they move,” the report said.
Eliminating arduous requirements for military spouses – 35 percent of whom work in professions requiring state credentials – would have a disproportionately positive impact on Kentucky, which ranks ninth-highest among states in the number of active duty military personnel stationed within our borders.
The report also notes that states can better serve returning veterans by using their excellent military training to bypass licensing policies that place “heavy burdens” on their ability to become civilian paramedics, truck drivers, nurses or welders.
How might removing barriers that still remain to heavily licensed professions open doors for Kentucky’s 27,000 military retirees?
The legislature, which has demonstrated an openness to helping military families, could do even more by recognizing that 60 percent of veterans responding to a 2012 survey indicated they had trouble translating their military skills into what Kentucky’s licensing boards consider sufficient – and significant – job experience.
The fact that only 15 of the 102 low- and moderate-income occupations looked at in an analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Justice are credentialed in 40 states or more indicates job-licensing schemes are more about cabals of incumbents seeking to keep competitors out rather than any meaningful public protection.
“These regulations don’t exist because citizens are storming the gates of the legislature begging for fences to keep out those wanting to break into the field,” said the Institute for Justice’s Dick Carpenter, who advised the White House on its recent report. (Click here to view Carpenter’s interview about the White House report on the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal.)
Kentucky compared to all of its neighboring states has, by far, the largest percentage of its workforce licensed, indicating there’s plenty of work that Obama’s Democrats and Paul’s Republicans could do in Frankfort to remove yet another barrier to entering and flourishing in the commonwealth’s fields of labor.
Hechinger’s Reports, not exactly a conservative group, recently released “Federal report finds scant scientific evidence for effectiveness of Head Start programs” concerning the disturbing news that yet another report on the federal Head Start preschool program has been released, this one from the technically oriented What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), which analyzes reports on education for scientific rigor.
Per Hechinger, the WWC reports that all but one of the 90 different Head Start reports it examined failed to meet standards for rigor.
Just one report did meet rigor standards, and Hechinger says that report:
“…showed rather disappointing results. It found that Head Start had ‘potentially positive effects’ on general reading achievement and ‘no discernible effects’ on mathematics achievement and social-emotional development for 3-year-old and 4-year-old children.”
All of this seems like rather thin evidence to support the huge investment this nation makes in Head Start. It also adds to my concerns that if so many reports about Head Start are not technically sufficient, then other reports about other preschool programs might not be very well done, either.
On June 22, 2015 I appeared on Kentucky Tonight talking about the forthcoming education year and its issues. I was asked about preschool programs. I said that if I had good evidence they worked, I’d support them.
I’m still looking – and it looks like I’m not the only one still looking – for good evidence – and it doesn’t seem to be available.
Kentucky State Representative Derrick Graham (D – Frankfort) is no fan of charter schools. As the chair of the House Education Committee, he has steadfastly blocked charter school legislation even though these public school choice options are producing significant results elsewhere.
In this audio recording from the August 10, 2015 meeting of the Kentucky Legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education, Graham tries to put school turn-around expert Professor Daniel L. Duke on the hot seat about charter schools. However, Duke had a ready answer.
The charter school miracle in New Orleans is a really dramatic example of the power of these public schools of choice, IF they are given the chance to come in to a state.
It remains to be seen if Rep. Graham was listening to Prof. Duke yesterday or is still only hearing the siren song of the teachers union in Kentucky. So long as Graham only hears that siren song attacking charter schools and school choice in general, many Kentucky kids will remain doomed to run up on the rocks of academic and lifelong failure.