“Toyota leaving Kentucky for Texas is a major blow to the entire state of Kentucky, and think is the most visible sign of the effect of the Kentucky State Pension Crisis. As I point out in my book ‘Kentucky Fried Pensions’ Kentucky and Illinois are in a class by themselves as far as underfunded pensions. Texas and Indiana have both publicly declared an economic development strategy of taking jobs from Illinois. In August 2013 on the Mandy Connell show (WHAS-84 AM Radio in Louisville) I discussed my book ‘Kentucky Fried Pensions,’ and immediately following Mandy interviewed Mike Pence the Governor of Indiana, who urged Kentucky business to move across the river where they have a healthy 80% funded pension. Many believe this was one of the major reasons Amazon chose Jeffersonville, IN. over a KY site. Now it looks like Texas governor has his first Kentucky theft in Toyota. Will there be more?” –Chris Tobe, author of “Kentucky Fried Pensions” Click here to read “Future Shock,” the Bluegrass Institute’s reports on the Bluegrass State’s public-pension crisis.
As Leon Mooneyhan points out in his Courier-Journal op-ed, Kentucky’s long-term struggles with education reform are now a quarter of a century old.
Imagine that – a full quarter-century.
So you would think that, by now, more than an adequate amount of time has passed for some of the remarkable things Mooneyhan claims happened to have actually occurred. Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality.
I’m a data guy. So when Mooneyhan writes, “We are taking a laser-like focus on data…to close achievement gaps,” I pay attention.
Clearly, his laser must be malfunctioning.
Back in 1992, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) said Kentucky’s fourth-grade white students scored 214 on the reading assessment while the state’s blacks only scored 196 – a gap of 18 points.
In the latest 2013 NAEP fourth grade reading test, Kentucky’s whites scored 227, but the state’s blacks only got a 204 – a gap of 23 points and a notable increase from the early KERA-era scores.
Also, fourth-grade NAEP math scores show Kentucky’s white-minus-black score gap increased by 3 points between 1992 and 2013. No improvement was posted in grade 8 math results, either. The white-minus-black score gap remained flat at 23 points between 1992 and 2013.
Furthermore, while Kentucky’s scores did improve on NAEP between 1992 and 2013, so did the scores for other states.
As a result, Kentucky’s white fourth-graders back in 1992 didn’t score statistically significantly higher in math than whites in any other state. By 2013, our fourth-grade whites could only claim bragging rights over one state – West Virginia – once the statistical sampling error in the NAEP was properly considered.
That’s not much progress for a quarter-century effort.
In 2013, our eighth-grade whites still only bested one state in math – that’s all. And, Kentucky’s blacks didn’t fare much better. In 1992, they statistically significantly outscored their counterparts in only three other states. In 2013, they bested blacks in only four other states.
Kentucky’s blacks suffered a much-worse decline in NAEP’s fourth-grade math results. In 1992, our blacks bested counterparts in 11 other states. By 2013, our blacks only bested those in three other states.
With NAEP reporting some depressingly low proficiency rates across the board, it’s clear that education reform is, at best, far – far – from done in the Bluegrass State.
In 2013, only 33 percent of Kentucky’s white students were proficient in eight-grade math while for blacks the proficiency rate was far lower at just 11 percent. Surely Mr. Mooneyhan isn’t going to claim much progress for our kids of color when their most-current proficiency rate is scarcely more than one in 10 students.
Given these facts, you can understand why I’m a little concerned by Mooneyhan’s closing comments that “…since 1989 when Kentucky decided to become educated, public schools have proven we’re good on our word.”
The jury is very much still out on that promise.
However, I do agree with his point that: “An educated workforce is essential to Kentucky’s economic growth and prosperity. An uneducated state is a state without a future.”
The problem is, with a quarter-century of seriously increased spending on education, Kentucky is not becoming educated nearly fast enough to keep up with the competition.
Time – along with our scarce tax dollars – is running out.
Richard G. Innes is staff education analyst for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free market think tank. Contact him at email@example.com.
(Minor technical updates added May 12, 2014)
April in Kentucky began with thunder and lightning striking in Jamestown as Fruit of the Loom announced the closing of its last remaining factory in Kentucky and the relocation of its manufacturing operations – and 600 jobs – to Central America.
The month ended with strong economic winds blowing through northern Kentucky as Toyota announced it was consolidating its operations – including those of its Erlanger facility – at a new headquarters in Plano, Texas. Kentucky will lose most of those 1,600 jobs.
None of the blame and spin found in abundant supply among the politicians’ reactions to these announcements really matters.
What does matter is the understanding that Kentucky must create an economic umbrella that helps it weathers future storms created by a volatile economy.
For years, large companies have been consolidating their operations just as manufacturers shed low-skilled textile jobs in favor of cheaper labor elsewhere.
While some clinch their fists and pound their tables, swearing to “buy American” while promising never to buy another package of Fruit of the Loom undies, there’s a better way.
It’s found in following, not fighting, these companies’ approach. They have made these decisions based on what will make their operations more competitive. Kentucky should do the same.
Gov. Steve Beshear bemoaned Toyota’s announcement, saying his administration “would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss options with Toyota.”
More talk, discussion and spin by a lethargic and risk-averse gubernatorial administration isn’t what’s needed. Rather, our economic times demand bold action to improve Kentucky’s competitiveness.
The discussion must no longer be limited to questions like: How can we keep these jobs from leaving?
Rather, our economic policies need to provide the answer to: How do we convince the Toyotas of the world not just to keep those 1,600 jobs here, but to actually consolidate their operations and build their headquarters here, including bring all of those other jobs to the Bluegrass State?
And, it’s: How can we create an economic atmosphere so dynamic that a textile manufacturer leaving is a few raindrops versus a torrential downpour?
I haven’t heard any such higher-level discussion coming from the governor’s office.
Common economic sense tells us that a state with high corporate tax rates, heaping helpings of debt, a lack of business-friendly labor practices and a poorly performing education system will not be competitive.
Kentucky for several consecutive years has remained one of the Institute for Truth in Accounting’s five “sinkhole states,” meaning the commonwealth continues to have some of the highest per-taxpayer debt in the nation.
Each Kentucky taxpayer carries a $26,700 burden as a result of that debt, compared to a taxpayer burden of only $7,400 in Texas.
How does having an economy, like some of its Corvettes, disappearing in a sinkhole make our state more economically competitive?
How does having a state education system where, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 36 percent of its fourth-graders are proficient readers, 30 percent of eighth-grade students are math-proficient and 28 percent of eighth-graders are adequate writers position Kentucky not just to keep some manufacturing jobs but to get the plum headquarters jobs of the future?
How do we compete with a state like Texas, where 178,000 kids today attended 550 public charter schools (with hundreds more opening soon) while Kentucky has no school choice and an entrenched teachers union committed to keeping it that way?
How does Kentucky with its punitive income taxes, lack of a right-to-work law and citizenry increasingly dependent on government programs and “benefits” compete with the likes of the Lone Star state, where there are no income taxes, lots of freedom and apparently just as much opportunity to go along with it?
“By almost any measure, children in Kentucky are in an educational crisis and that crisis is most profound for black children,” writes new Black Alliance for Educational Options state director Mendell Grinter in today’s Lexington Herald-Leader.
Certainly, the Bluegrass Institute’s analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates that, as Grinter puts it: “In the face of such staggering data, the status quo is hard to defend.”
While empowering parents — especially low-income, minority parents — to have choices in where they send their children to school might not be the silver bullet that fixes all of Kentucky’s education woes, he rightly observes that “the current system lacks charters’ ‘do-or-die’ push to succeed.
“Absent any sense of genuine urgency, too many traditional schools have failed to meet students’ needs — year after year — and the students themselves bear the only real repercussions.”
Minter joins the Bluegrass Institute in urging lawmakers to put passage of public charter school legislation on their radars, noting that increasing the educational quality afforded to all children “is our most urgent priority.”
“It’s time we stop propping up failing schools and worrying about adults in the system and started focusing on our children. We need bold, decisive leaders who are willing to put politics and fear aside and put children first,” Minter writes.
Add the Chicago teachers union to the teachers’ union in New York State and the president of the National Education Association who are now calling foul on Common Core State Standards as implemented.
A few of the things that irk teachers in President Obama’s home town include:
• The purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career;
• The education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice;
• Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students;
• Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students;
• Imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and
• Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.
One criticism leveled by opponents of the Teach for America (TFA) program is that many TFA teachers quit after their initial, two-year commitment has expired.
Well, that’s apparently not so in Floyd County’s public schools. The Floyd County Times reports that all the TFA teachers in that school system are staying on. It’s great news for the students and the schools. It is also a credit to Floyd County that it moved beyond prejudice to make these well-qualified young teachers feel welcome and appreciated.