“At this time, there is not sufficient public support for committing over $350 million in state, city and other funds to a basketball arena and convention center when there are so many well-recognized educational, economic, retirement and health care needs across Lexington and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” –University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto on proposed Rupp Arena renovation project. Gov. Steve Beshear proposes forcing taxpayers statewide to spend $80 million on the effort.
Confirming problems many have long understood on a subjective basis, the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts just released a huge report on the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS).
The report was actually requested by the Jefferson County Board of Education, which now might better understand its limitations in trying to control the huge bureaucratic monster in Louisville.
To be sure, findings in the Auditor’s 301-page report are extensive, pointing to a school system that seems more run for adults than students.
Louisville has been “skipping class” and has a lot of makeup work to do.
It was was low profile for some time, but WDRB has now resurfaced a story about a potential cheating scandal at Louisville’s Male High School.
“Eight seniors at Louisville Male High School say they were helped by a school official – or witnessed the official helping their peers – on a standardized test that measures whether students are ready for college.”
WDRB’s article continues with some of the TV station’s own investigative reporting interviews with students and others. That reporting that makes it clear an investigation is clearly warranted and certainly points to a high likelihood that improper activities did occur at Male. Now, both the Kentucky Department of Education and the ACT, Inc., which developed and administered the COMPASS tests in question, are investigating.
The consequences could be dramatic.
Not only would cheating lead to consequences for those involved directly, but the school’s overall College and Career Readiness Rate in the state’s Unbridled Learning accountability program would also be impacted. That would reduce the overall accountability numbers for the school.
One more point: this is the second major issue to surface with COMPASS in the past few months. I wrote earlier (here, here and here) about an issue where students using certain smart calculators could compromise the accuracy of the overall COMPASS math score. That issue could impact many schools across Kentucky. However, so far there has been no public discussion about the exact amount of such impacts on the true College and Career Readiness rates. I hope the Kentucky Board of Education addresses the situation in a transparent way shortly.
By the way, I did a little estimate of what could happen to Male’s College and Career Readiness if the COMPASS cheating occurred. Click the “Read more” link to see that.
Independent-minded Kentuckians don’t take too kindly to a governor and an unelected bureaucratic “project manager” trying to extract $80 million from taxpayers statewide to fund the proposed renovation of Rupp Arena.
These same Kentuckians also don’t seem to be swayed by Gov. Beshear’s weak “Louisville got one, so Lexington gets one, too” argument.
Perhaps they are paying more attention to the financial mess that the Louisville arena finds itself in than they receive credit for from politicians or overbearing project managers.
Some of my libertarian friends become annoyed when this column addresses low voter turnouts.
“Not voting is a vote,” riled-up responders declare.
True. For that reason, I don’t support mandatory voting laws – a political staple in some nations.
The hyped-up concerns that America’s turnout in national elections is lower than most other comparator countries don’t warrant even a blip on my worry radar.
Requiring citizens to vote or face a fine – as some countries do – increases turnout. However, it hardly guarantees election of the best candidates or approval of sound policies.
Still, how can we not be concerned that a minority of voters often determine elections?
Perhaps the voting challenged among us fail to grasp the consequences of decisions made by those who do take office.
Kentucky, after all, has paid a high price for electing too many politicians who refuse to implement policies needed to effectively compete with other states for genuine economic growth.
We can’t definitively answer how many Toyota headquarters would have located in Kentucky had our policymakers – like those in Texas – offered the kind of inspiring free-market vision that brightens its citizens’ prospects for the future. It’s likely, however, that our commonwealth would not have one of the highest unemployment rates and an education system where only one out of three public-school students are proficient readers.
Would Kentucky have ended its lucrative pension system for longtime politicians if more than 412,000 of the 2.9 million registered voters – only 14 percent – had weighed in during the last primary election? Could it be that Kentuckians would now enjoy school choice or better job opportunities if some of the 1.2 million registered voters who bypassed the state’s previous General Election had showed up?
We must at least allow for the possibility.
My libertarian colleagues argue that a higher voter turnout could worsen conditions – especially if those turning out are ill-informed.
“Contrary to the folklore of democratic health, low turnout can signal social solidarity, reflect real civic virtue, and even make democracy work better,” Will Wilkinson, a former research fellow at the Cato Institute, once wrote in an article entitled “Thank You for Not Voting” about a Canadian federal election that produced that nation’s lowest voter turnout in history.
“So when turnout drops, it tends to leave the pool of remaining voters with an improved average level of political knowledge and policy know-how,” Wilkinson writes. “If well-informed voters have a better picture of the candidate or party most likely to promote the general welfare, then especially high turnout can actually tilt an election away from the better choice, leaving everyone a bit worse off.”
That’s a compelling argument suited especially for national elections.
After all, could we as a nation be much worse off had “the flakiest voters,” as Wilkinson referred to the “least motivated” participants, stayed home during the last two presidential elections that had some of the largest turnouts in modern times?
But we need a different argument de vente when it comes to state and local elections. Too few turning out in those elections has left Kentucky “worse off.”
Was Kentucky better off with former Democratic Rep. John Arnold, D-Sturgis, getting elected 10 times in the House where he did little, if anything, of significance for his constituents other than sexually harass legislative aides for years for which he’s been reprimanded and fined by the state Legislative Ethics Commission?
Did Arnold winning by five single votes in the 2012 general election make Kentucky better off?
No more than you will by bypassing the voting booth on May 20.
I have written over the past week about the tumultuous situation in the Fleming County High School where hundreds of students walked out in protest after a state inspection team said the principal should be removed.
Along the way, I learned that this school’s performance new review is indeed loaded with serious findings, but that the school also has scored high overall in the state’s Unbridled Learning school accountability system, creating a clear conflict of credibility for both the performance review and the accountability system.
Now, the Ledger-Independent provides a new update. Due to public feedback, the Kentucky Department of Education is going to allow the principal of Fleming County High to retain his position for one more year. Under the circumstances, that seems a good choice.
But, a toll is being taken on staff in the school district. Fleming County Schools have been challenged for several years, and the current superintendent has only been in place for two years, inheriting a district in financial shambles with many other problems, as well. A companion performance review for the district indicates that many problems still remain.
Thus, citing health and family issues, at the Fleming County Board of Education meeting this Wednesday, district superintendent Tom Price tendered his resignation.
The audit certainly seems to support a leadership change (though I didn’t see a clear call for the superintendent to go), but I cannot help wondering whether or not Price was expected to accomplish too much, too soon. Now, this troubled school system will be hunting for a new district leader while storm clouds still hover over their high school leader, as well. That won’t allow much time for the new superintendent to get up to speed and then start to offer the high school principal effective assistance as he works through what could be his last year at Fleming County High. I sincerely hope the Kentucky Department of Education recognizes this and gets the principal the extra support he needs. The kids in Fleming County deserve no less.