(EMINENCE, Ky.) – A new Bluegrass Institute study ranking efficiency in Kentucky’s public schools confirms that the commonwealth’s students – even those from poor homes – can receive a better education in spite of current economic challenges that impact the state budget and education funding.
“Bang for the Buck 2012: How efficient are Kentucky’s schools?” updates a previous study by the institute, this time ranking the Bluegrass State’s school districts – instead of individual schools – on their efficiency ratio of ACT test scores to per-pupil spending.
The results found in this study make it clear: the answer to providing a quality education is not just more tax dollars, but in making better use of available resources,” said staff education analyst Richard G. Innes, the author of the report. “It adds more evidence that poverty is no excuse for failing to adequately prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century marketplace.
For one example, the report ranks the Harlan Independent District as the second-most score versus spending efficient school system in the state, despite a student poverty rate nearly equal to the state average.
Barbourville Independent, the fourth-most efficient district, gets above average test scores with well below average funding despite a school-lunch rate that is higher than the statewide average.
“Student poverty clearly does not stand in the way of efficiency in Harlan and Barbourville,” Innes said. “They show what can be done.”
The study also identifies four “Diamond in the Rough” school districts that are giving taxpayers above-average bang for their education bucks despite above-average poverty rates.
Those districts, Graves County, Eminence Independent (Henry Co.), LaRue County and Mason County, each posted efficiency scores for their 2011 data at least 10 percent better than the state average even though their student lunch eligibility rates equal or exceed the state average. They also surpassed the average ACT Composite score for all districts by at least half a point and posted better than average high school graduation rates in 2010, as well.
“Normally all four ‘Diamond in the Rough’ districts would be overlooked because they get neither the top academic scores nor the lowest funding,” Innes said. “But it’s their efficiency – the combination of good bang for each buck despite considerable poverty rates – that makes these districts stand out.”
Innes did find some common threads in these efficiently operating districts:
- Using credible data to establish high expectations.
- Emphasizing building and maintaining strong and respectful relationships with students and parents and between teachers and administrators.
- Using digital learning to open up new opportunities to maximize the value of time and financial resources. For example, Eminence Independent provides students taking dual-credit college courses at Bellarmine University in Louisville a computer and a bus equipped with WiFi so that the 40-minute commute is not wasted.
“We hope that all Kentucky superintendents will learn from the excellent model of efficiency provided by these districts,” said Jim Waters, interim president of the Bluegrass Institute. “With the state’s current economic challenges, it behooves our school districts’ leaders to apply these best practices and become more efficient in all aspects of their operations.”
To all Bluegrass Institute supporters in Northern Kentucky: I will be speaking on Kentucky’s public pension crisis at Monday night’s meeting of the Boone County Tea Party meeting.
The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Shakey’s Pub & Grub, 7718 US 42, Florence, KY 41042.
I hope to see you there.
To support a radio interview today with Bluegrass Institute’s President, Jim Waters, on WLLV in Louisville, I assembled some of the latest education statistics for Jefferson County (JeffCo) and Kentucky. The table below shows the most recently released score and graduation rate information from the Kentucky Department of Education’s web site, including the “Open House” data portal. That most recently available data is shaded yellow.
I also looked at how the 11th grade class of 2011-12 did on the EXPLORE test when they were in the 8th grade in the 2008-09 school year (data in tan taken from the report released that year).
While JeffCo seems to be about middle of the pack for the ACT Composite Score in 2011-12, that can create a misleading idea about overall education performance in the district.
Based on the latest available high school graduation rates, the district drops out a lot more students than the statewide average. If more of your weak kids leave school before the ACT is given, it inflates your scores more.
Let’s expand on that.
When we look at how JeffCo does before kids start to drop out using the EXPLORE test, which is given to 8th graders, JeffCo ranks way down on the list.
Also, even when we look at how the 11th grade class of 2011-12 did when they took EXPLORE as 8th graders in 2008-09, JeffCo ranks well down on the list, as well.
Even worse, JeffCo’s rank on EXPLORE dropped notably, declining by 7 places, between 2008-09 and 2011-12. That is because between those years the state average EXPLORE Composite Score increased by 0.5 point while in JeffCo the score went up only 0.3 point.
You can’t catch up if you are running slower!
(Editorial Note: Rankings Updated in Table and title added 28 Sep 12)
We’ve all heard about the damage the Environmental Protection Agency is doing to Appalachian coal communities through its unprecedented new emissions standards and unilateral regulations. But now it appears the damage is spreading miles outside of Appalachia to all of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
That’s because one of the commonwealth’s most lucrative sources of revenues is through the coal severance tax – a tax imposed on coal miners for removing resources from Bluegrass turf.
Just five months ago, Kentucky lawmakers passed a budget with the expectation that revenue from the coal tax would be $333 million – down from recent years but no small sum. Well, thanks to factors including the current administration’s promise to bankrupt Kentucky’s most prized natural resource, Kentucky’s Joint Committee on Energy and Environment now projects coal severance revenue to be nearly $100 million less than expected. And that’s after only five months!
Because of the drop in the severance tax, many Kentucky counties are going to have to sacrifice public infrastructure projects that could have provided desperately needed jobs. So we see again that the damage the EPA’s war on coal is having on Kentucky families is all too real.
“Beyond the rolling hills of the Bluegrass, within the depths of steep mountainside, Kentuckians built a coal industry that powers America.”
But according to Kentucky Republican candidate for U.S. House, Andy Barr, the current administration has targeted that very industry for economic annihilation.
Even Gov. Steve Beshear has voiced displeasure for the Environmental Protection Agency’s draconian posture toward Kentucky coal – but Andy Barr represents the growing exasperation Kentuckians feel toward the EPA. As the economic consequences of the EPA’s unilateral edicts become even more evident to denizens of the commonwealth, yet additional legislators are likely to join the battle for state sovereignty over Kentucky’s energy sector.
In the past year alone, federal judges have ruled against the EPA three times. The tide is turning because citizens passionate about smaller government have demanded it.
Their passion is really no surprise though, since “rarely in history has a single industry been so ruthlessly attacked with so little regard for the people it hurts.”