The Courier-Journal is running a poll on whether Kentucky should have public charter schools. When I checked at 2:50 pm on February 19th, the results were 64 percent in favor, 26 percent opposed and nine percent saying they didn’t know enough to say. 2,056 people had voted.
We’ve been writing a lot about the Persistently Low-Achieving (Priority) Schools mess in Louisville, but this is far from the only under-performing school system in Kentucky.
Announced today, the Kentucky Board of Education will be meeting shortly to vote on whether to take over the Monticello Independent School District since the district has now waived its rights to appeal.
While a major focus of the takeover is due to financial issues, there is no getting around the fact that Monticello High School’s juniors posted one of the very worst ACT Composite Scores in 2012 of any district in the state. The high school is also a Persistently Low-Achieving School.
At least in Monticello they are facing the facts of poor performance for their students and are willing to let someone else try to help them do better.
How nice it would be if the same were to happen in Louisville.
There are some serious policy issues brewing for Kentucky—the first is our ticking debt bomb, which could ruin the standard of living that most Kentuckians enjoy.
The second is an all out attack on our energy sector.
The Left has already revealed their solutions to these issues. They want to raise your taxes and if they’re going to take a hit on raising taxes, then they’re going to go for BIG TAXES.
They’re also bringing in BIG HOLLYWOOD. And for Kentuckians that means an actress who once referred to coal mining—our signature energy industry–as “the rape of Appalachia.”
That’s why we need you now. We don’t even exist without the generosity of members like you to support our work. By investing just 50% more TODAY you’ll enable us to fund our small and dedicated staff, to round out our strategy in fighting this big Leftist onslaught and to expand our output.
We need to be ready. Doing nothing is not an option.
Already this year, your partnership with the institute has made two important transparency ideas gain traction in Frankfort – public pension transparency and shining the light on the 1,200 special taxing districts that now can collect, and in many cases even raise, taxes across the commonwealth.
We’ve already taken some heat on this issue from members of both parties, but the lack of accountability in Kentucky’s 1,200 taxing districts isn’t a nickels-and-dimes type of problem. And if these local “ghost” governments comprised of unelected bureaucrats can operate outside citizen oversight, then wh
- The 1,268 special districts found in every county in Kentucky spend more than $2.7 billionper year – more than one-fourth of the annual state budget’s General Fund. That’s money coming out of your pocket.
I know we did the right thing in bringing transparency to these big-spending districts and there is so much more we can do to shine a disinfecting light into the murky corners of big government.
Together, I know we can force government accountability and stop the Left’s advances into Kentucky. And together we’ll keep on growing. Thank you in advance.
P.S. We’re gearing up for some key policy battles for the heart of Kentucky and we’re looking to take the Bluegrass Institute’s impact to the next level. But we need your help to grow in impact.
If those of you who faithfully follow our content and work could help us expand our budget by just 50% in 2013, we can literally DOUBLE our impact just in time. Thank you for sticking with us through 10 years of advancing liberty.
Last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York and one of Kentucky’s own, Rep. John Yarmuth, introduced H.R. 526, the Appalachian Health Emergency Act. If passed, this shoot-first, ask-questions-later-bill would completely ban any new mountaintop removal mining permits until a study outlining the health implications of such practices is completed by the feds. So much for innocent until proven guilty, eh?
The bill would also force current mining operations to submit a monthly report on pollution of waterways, air, soil – even noise pollution – to the feds. Of course, these reports and also the feds’ impartial study will be funded by fining coal miners – who currently provide Kentucky with 93% of its electricity needs.
At least such proposals will have to go through an elected body before they become the one-size-fits-all law of the land, unlike the unilateral dictates of the Environmental Protection Agency currently costing Kentuckians billions per year.
Still, perhaps a bill similar to H.R. 526 should be passed outlawing any new pieces of federal legislation until the states complete a study showing the efficacy of Congress. One can dream…
An even more disconcerting bill introduced recently hits much closer to home, because this one comes from our state legislators.
Legislators from Louisville and Lexington – areas of the commonwealth notoriously ignorant to the importance of coal country in western Kentucky and Appalachia – recently introduced House Bill 170. This would establish renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) in the commonwealth and force utility companies to generate power using a higher percentage of costly and unproven energy sources, like wind and solar, in place of coal and natural gas.
Protecting the environment in the Bluegrass State should be a priority to all Kentuckians, but not if doing so means ignoring the substantial costs involved with RPS. For example, according to a report released last year from the Manhattan Institute, states that have mandated RPS have experienced significantly greater rises in the price of energy over the past decade. The study also finds that the states with the highest energy prices tend to be states requiring RPS.
As shown by the study, citizens should educate themselves of the costs of such green agendas before supporting. HB 170 is currently being reviewed by the Tourism Development & Energy subcommittee.
Teachers in the Persistently Low-Achieving Schools (PLAs) don’t come close to the experience level of the teachers in other Jefferson County schools.
Facts about Louisville’s long-term, chronically under-performing schools are finally coming out since Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday unleashed a Tsunami with his recent remarks that performance in Jefferson County’s lowest-performing schools amounted to “educational genocide.”
The media jumped all over the “education genocide” issue all week. Not surprisingly, the local school board quickly started the same old low performance denial dance for which they have long been famous.
But, it’s time to flesh the discussion out with some hard facts instead of “adult drama” plus lots of whining and sniveling.
The Kentucky Office of Education Accountability charged in a recent report that when the first group of PLAs got restaffed, they wound up with a lot of inexperienced teachers. But, is that still a problem?
An answer can be found in new Unbridled Learning state accountability documents. These contain an Excel spreadsheet with some very interesting data about teacher qualifications in every school in Kentucky for the 2011-12 school year. I have been looking at that data, running comparisons between Jefferson County’s PLAs high schools and statistics for the other Jefferson County high schools. This table summarizes some of what I found.
First, when you average per pupil spending in the two sets of schools, it is very clear that funding isn’t an excuse. The PLAs high schools got, on average, nearly 50 percent more per pupil funding than the non-PLAs received in 2011-12.
However, despite more financial resources, the PLAs, on average, were staffed with notably fewer highly experienced and qualified teachers.
For example, PLAs averaged notably fewer National Board Certified Teachers than were found in the non-PLAs. If Jefferson County was really serious about helping the PLAs, shouldn’t the district have sent in a lot of these highly qualified teachers?
There is also a huge gap in average years of teaching experience. Even though the PLAs clearly should have top priority for experienced teachers, when the dust settled, the PLAs didn’t get close to the level of experience they needed, not even in the most recent school year. Instead, at least as of the 2011-12 school term, the massive amount of teaching experience in Jefferson County is still found overwhelmingly in the non-PLAs. In fact, teaching years of experience are over 6o percent higher in the non-PLAs per the 2011-12 Unbridled Learning documentation. Now, how’s that again about the union doing all it could to help the PLAs?
Surprisingly, the number of teachers with Masters’ Degrees is about the same in both sets of Jefferson County schools. However, when we look at the number of Rank 1 Teachers, the most experienced category, the PLAs lose out notably, once again.
By the way, the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board says of teacher ranking, “Rank 1 is the highest rank in Kentucky and may allow for an increase in salary for teachers based on the local district pay scale that considers educational level and experience.”
That sure sounds like something the PLAs needed, but didn’t get, in Jefferson County. WHY?
Bottom line: the locals in Jefferson County can do all the denial dancing they want, but the facts are starting to come out, and they show a disappointing lack of any sort of really aggressive effort to do the most badly needed thing in the PLAs – namely, sending in sufficient numbers of highly experienced teachers to the most demanding schools in the system.
Hundreds turned out in Frankfort on Valentines Day for an event organized by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to protest one of Kentucky’s most important industries: coal mining, and mountain top removal.
Though protecting Kentucky’s picturesque sceneries and wildlife should be a top priority for Kentuckians, before more citizens in the commonwealth show support for such a movement, perhaps they should be reminded of some key facts about Kentucky coal:
- Kentucky produces 10% of the nation’s coal, which is top three in the nation, and has been so for the last 50 years.
- Kentucky coal employs about 20,000 miners with weekly wages of over $1,200. Three additional industry jobs depend on each miner employed.
- Kentucky coal brought in more than $5 billion to the commonwealth in 2009, and paid $270 million in coal severance taxes in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
- Kentucky coal provides for some of the cheapest energy rates in the country, attracting industries like steel, automotive, and aluminum – which is produced most right here in Kentucky. In 2009, for example, retail electricity costs in Kentucky were lowest in the nation at 6.03 cents per kilowatt-hour.
- 93% of electricity in Kentucky is generated by coal.
Perhaps Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, put it best:
“I understand that these people have great passion for what they do but I think they really don’t reflect the vast majority of Kentuckians who appreciate what our coal miners do, who understand the importance of coal and its direct connection to our economy.”