Dick Innes will be talking with host Mandy Connell on Louisville’s 84WHAS this morning about the new reports that show Kentucky ranks 10th, 35th or whatever for education. Tune in to find out how education reporting gets so confusing.
Today from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (eastern). Listen live here.
The following letter to the editor appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader last week.
More Kentuckians would be outraged if they knew that the state’s public pension system was legislated into secrecy in the early 1970s.
Included in KRS 61.661 is language that ensures public pension disbursements are not subject to open records laws. The law states “each current, former, or retired member’s account shall be administered in a confidential manner…”
Why is this a problem? Kentucky is currently saddled with — and broken by — a $34 billion unfunded public pension liability. Taxpayers don’t have a chance of holding their government accountable without transparency.
Taxpayers have access to public employee salary information, state contracts and school districts and executive branch check registers.
All of those items are available via the Kentucky Open Record Act so that taxpayers can understand how their hard earned money is being spent.
But if a taxpayer wants to know how much money is being spent to fund the gold-plated pension of a part-time legislator, well, they are out of luck.
Kentucky doesn’t allow transparency in its public pension system.
It is time for our legislators to have the courage to force transparency in the Kentucky Retirement Systems.
Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
You can read more about Kentucky’s public pension crisis here.
Evidence keeps pouring in rebutting those who claim the Environmental Protection Agency’s newest draconian regulations have no practical effect on our energy sector. (And really, if they actually have no practical effect, why do they exist again? Please.)
The most recent piece of evidence comes from the International Energy Agency (IEA) which reports that by 2017, coal is set to become the world’s largest source of energy. An extra 1.2 billion tons of coal per year are expected to be consumed over the next five years.
The reasons for this are two. First, population growth means more people and more energy demand. Second, countries like India and China continue to push into the new millennium, investing in new infrastructure and improving the quality of life for their citizens. A more affluent world also means higher demand for cheap energy.
This is all good news for Kentucky’s energy sector – as long as the EPA doesn’t succeed in its harebrained mission to snuff it out completely. The most recent piece of regulation, enacted after the current administration was re-elected, is designed to reduce soot from industrial boilers and incinerators. I didn’t realize we had a “soot problem” here in Kentucky, but I suppose the $350 million price tag is worth it? As a result of these sorts of regulations, sites like Kentucky Utility’s Ghent plant are forced to implement costly equipment alterations designed to reduce emissions by fractions. The most recent price tag the EPA pinned on the Ghent plant is $57 million. No doubt, rates will be raised on homes and businesses.
Still, there’s huge business in coal exports and it’s only set to increase. What an outlet for Kentucky, the nation’s third largest coal producer. And what possibilities for Kentuckians who could benefit greatly from the EPA, allowing us to unleash the natural power found beneath our soil.
By Jim Waters
Petersburg, Virginia is not unlike a lot of small towns in rural Kentucky. Its 30,000 or so residents are predominantly Baptist, proud of their city’s rich heritage and enjoy the economic benefits of being nestled near a major waterway.
But a mere suggestion from Virginia Gov. Bobby McDonnell a couple of years ago to open a public charter school in the failing district prompted significant changes.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that in 2008, five of Petersburg’s seven schools were unaccredited, according to statewide assessments. By 2009, not a single one of Petersburg’s schools had made Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind.
Just as in Kentucky, a veritable hodgepodge of ideas was tossed at the walls of Petersburg’s classrooms to see which would stick and turn student performance around.
Whether it was throwing more money at the failing schools, requiring advanced degrees for teachers or forcing each school to adopt a new state-mandated curriculum, every one-size-fits-any-student “solution” was suggested – except for the idea actually proven to work consistently across the nation, including in Kentucky’s surrounding states: competition between schools through educational choice.
Thankfully for Virginia’s young people, their commonwealth is one of 41 states and Washington D.C. with charter school legislation – a big step in increasing quality options for parents and students.
Because four charter schools already existed in Virginia, Gov. McDonnell’s suggestion to establish such alternative public schools in Petersburg carried weight. If the traditional schools did not find a way to improve, they’d soon find themselves closed down and their wasted resources transformed into a quality education by alternative institutions.
Amazing to some – but not to those who understand the marvel of school choice – such an incentive turned Petersburg’s district around, and by the 2010-11 school year, six of Petersburg’s seven schools received accreditation. All of this actually happened without a charter school even being established; it followed a mere suggestion by the governor that a charter could open in the district.
Just imagine if students attending one of Kentucky’s 50 “dropout factories” – high schools with graduation rates lower than 60 percent – were afforded the life-changing opportunities to actually attend such schools.
As recently as last year, a legitimate piece of charter school legislation gained significant political clout in the Kentucky General Assembly, only to be shot down by House Education Committee Chair Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, and the educational labor unions he represents.
These union bosses often succeed by convincing uninformed legislators that public charter schools don’t work. However, they are losing the data battle.
A recent study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reports that charter school students in neighboring Indiana “ended the year having made the equivalent of 1.5 more months of learning gains in both reading and math than their traditional public school counterparts did.”
CREDO also reports that a student in one of New Jersey’s 70 charter schools gained two additional months of learning in reading, and three in math.
Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby found similar results for charter schools in New York City and Chicago.
It’s no mystery as to why charters outperform their traditional counterparts: charters are exempt from many state regulations and labor union rules that stifle educational innovation. But if they don’t perform, they lose resources and close their doors. Several have, but many more are doing a great job.
With the 2013 legislative session just around the corner, let’s hope our elected officials allow this market mechanism that works so well in so many other states to work its magic here in Kentucky, too.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at email@example.com. Read previously published columns at www.freedomkentucky.org/bluegrassbeacon.
The new Quality Counts report from Education Week gave Kentucky an overall ranking of #10 for its public education program. That is pretty hard to accept.
But, check this out – ranking even higher than Kentucky in the new Quality Counts report is West Virginia, coming in at 9th place!!!
That is just ludicrous.
By the way, this EdWeek nonsense didn’t fool folks in Charleston, WV. Apparently, there might be a few better educated folks in West Virginia after all. At least they didn’t fall for the EdWeek nonsense the way our governor did.
I rest my case on the validity of this dubious ranking mess.
Now, let’s face some facts:
• Kentucky has a lot of new, untried standards and assessments on the books. I am hopeful they will pan out, but it is far too soon to declare victory, and it would be disrespectful of our students to try and do so at this time.
• At present, the most recent data available shows our white kids, who comprise about 84 percent of our public school population, seriously lag their counterparts in most other states around the country.
• The latest ACT data shows that among the states that now test all students with this college entrance test, Kentucky continues to perform poorly.
We have a lot of problems and a lot still to do. And, if this state really were in #10 position, it would only mean the rest of the country was in really dire trouble.
And, if anyone thinks education in West Virginia’s education system ranks in the top 9 in the country, they really are delusional.
In fact, blindly accepting a ranking scheme that says West Virginia is better than Kentucky is disrespectful to the citizens and educators in the Bluegrass State, as well!