The Leadership West Louisville Institute hosted one of their Lunch Forum Panel discussions today on the “Academic Genocide” going on in Louisville’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools (PLAs). Panelist Terry Holliday, the Kentucky Commissioner of Education, got hit with what-if questions and came right back with some here’s-how-it-is answers. This is by far the strongest commentary yet from Holliday about how the union contract with the Jefferson County Teachers Association has prevented needed changes in Louisville’s PLAs.
Earlier today, Gov. Steve Beshear signed House Bill 1 into law, a law that will finally shine the light of public transparency on Kentucky’s “ghost governments.” These spooky bureaucratic entities consist of more than 1,200 special taxing districts across the commonwealth which have the power to assess fees and levy fines on Kentuckians. All too often, these districts ignore their legal obligations to submit budgets to county governments, or aren’t audited at all. But the spookiest part of all is that the bureaucrats commanding these ghost governments don’t have to be elected by Kentucky taxpayers, even though they dole out more than $2.7 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned money every year.
That’s called taxation without representation, people.
But thanks to efforts from the Bluegrass Institute and State Auditor Adam Edelen, House Bill 1 will go a long way toward correcting that age-old problem. Among other reforms, HB 1 will create a central registry where special taxing districts must submit regular financial reports of their activities. It will also create a public database where taxpayers can scrutinize district spending.
The Bluegrass Institute has long spoken out against the opaque nature of too many sectors of Kentucky’s government. Ever since Auditor Edelen first began his efforts to investigate the lack of transparency within special taxing districts early last year, the Bluegrass Institute has supported the $2.7 billion endeavor and alerted those passionate about accountability in government of the importance of these efforts.
So we at the Bluegrass Institute are proud to say House Bill 1 has been signed into law. By establishing a public database to oversee special taxing districts, HB 1 has empowered millions of Kentuckians to be stewards of good and efficient government.
“Woe unto you, lawyers,” Jesus Christ himself once said.
Fast forward 20 centuries and Christ could have had the personal-injury, ambulance-chasing kind of lawyer in mind.
You’ve seen these law-benders’ brand of advertising: targeting doctors doing their best to alleviate patients’ pain through joint replacements or soliciting victims of diseases you’ve never heard of.
It matters not whether the physicians give it their God’s-honest best shot after conferring the risks with their patients. They still tote a bulls-eye in Kentucky’s target-rich, litigious environment – compliments of the ambulance chasers.
Plaintiffs are reassured they won’t pay if they lose. Of course if they win, they usually fork over up to a third of their awards to these legal leeches.
So it’s no surprise that “the lawyers” and their enablers during the current Kentucky General Assembly session are the ones railing against common-sense proposals to bring some sanity to reckless lawsuits designed to take out the caretakers of the elderly.
But some reasonable legislators, including Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, don’t like the fact that Kentucky’s nursing homes are sued more often than those in any other state, according to Aon, a top risk-assessment firm.
No, I didn’t write that. It is the title of this Washington Post article from reporter Jay Mathews about the lack of effectiveness in many past reform fads.
Of course, I did write “KERA (1990-2010) What Have We Learned.”
My report outlines specific failures in Kentucky of many of the reforms that Mathews writes about.
The Bluegrass Institute recently signed on to support the repeal of a key portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
The IPAB is a board controlled by the executive branch whose members are chosen exclusively by the President. The board was created to make unilateral and unchecked decisions in Medicare spending cuts if the entitlement program grows beyond an arbitrary spending limit. According to the originators of the petition:
“The IPAB will have unprecedented power with little oversight, even though it has the power to literally change laws previously enacted by Congress. Further, the law specifically prohibits administrative or judicial review of the Secretary’s implementation of a recommendation contained in an IPAB proposal.”
Having long championed the utmost transparency in all levels of government, the Bluegrass Institute signed the petition to repeal this shady board — a board that can only be overruled by a super-majority in Congress.
Still, the astronomical and unsustainable growth in Medicare spending is an emergency for the commonwealth and the nation. Medicare and Medicaid currently make up about a quarter of federal spending, or 5 percent of the nation’s GDP. What’s worse, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that spending on these entitlement programs will increase to 15 percent of GDP in the next 50 years.
The IPAB is partially meant to be a unilateral solution to these spending woes where Congress — egged on by special interests — has failed. While IPAB puts the power to effect Medicare spending in the hands of an unchecked political body heavily influenced by the executive branch, the current system (MedPAC) puts the power to effect Medicare spending in the hands of special interests and their cronies in Congress, a system that has brought the unsustainable spending levels we see today.
It’s unfortunate that the cozy relationship between government and health care has grown to the point where Kentuckians are now in the unenviable position to have to choose between the growth of Obamacare and his IPAB or the growth of Medicare. If only there were a true alternative to government-run health care available: a free market for medicine.
Recent findings in an audit of Dayton Independent Schools led State Auditor Adam Edelen and Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday to call for more transparency in the contracts and evaluations of Kentucky school superintendents.
In 2011, The Bluegrass Institute sent a records requests to Dayton Independent Schools to obtain the criteria for which the superintendent was evaluated by and a copy of the actual evaluations. The criteria was sent but the district claimed that there was no documentation of the evaluation because they were conducted orally.
You can view the records request history of the district here.
I think Commissioner Holliday and Auditor Edelen are on the right track be requiring districts to submit contracts and copies of evaluations to be posted on the Kentucky Department of Education website. Transparency can lead to accountability.