To celebrate Milton Friedman, each year we have an event in Louisville where we talk about the economics in daily life. Here, I have pulled a video from our event two years ago of Jeff Reed speaking about the great free-market thinker. I earlier posted a video of Jim Waters from the same event.
A Glasgow Daily Times July 16, 2012 article, “Board gets KSBA update” (subscription for full article in e-edition) reports on some confusing comments about EXPLORE and PLAN performance over time in the Metcalfe County School system. I’m concerned on several counts.
Not only do the numbers cited disagree with the official numbers in the Kentucky Department of Education’s web site, but the Metcalfe County assessment and accountability person seems confused about the very important meaning of the “Benchmark Scores” from EXPLORE and PLAN.
Finally, Metcalfe County’s 10th grade students in 2011-12 experienced notable drops in the percentage that were on track to be college ready in both English and mathematics, and I don’t think the news article captured that problem.
A Fox News article from July 14, 2012 discusses how the high salaries of teachers’ union leaders are drawing jeers – from the very teachers those unions supposedly represent.
It looks like rank and file members within the education community are not happy.
Fox quotes teacher Kristi LaCroix, an English teacher from Kenosha, Wisconsin, sounding a lot like me when she says of her union’s leaders:
“They want us to be seen as laborers and not professionals. I get nothing for my dues except them going to keeping (sic) ineffective teachers employed and treated like a servant.”
Certainly, we have seen evidence that the Kentucky Education Association and its local affiliates have not always operated in ways that are consistent with treating teachers as professionals.
A classic example was when the union contract in Louisville interfered with restaffing of that city’s Persistently Low-Achieving Schools with experienced teachers. See pages 36 to 37 in Kentucky LRC Research Report 377 for more on how union’s self-interests were placed in front of the needs of Louisville’s children.
Page 15 in the same LRC report points out that the Kentucky Education Association “is not an advocate of merit pay for highly effective teachers or differential pay for teachers of hard-to-staff subjects.” That teachers-as-one-size-fits-all sort of factory worker mentality makes it hard for Kentucky to attract enough good teachers to those demanding assignments.
Kentucky needs a change. It’s time for its teachers’ union leaders to start thinking and acting like representatives of professionals, not factory floor workers.
I sense that, and it looks like working teachers are starting to recognize the disconnect between their profession and their union, as well.
With pension systems at all levels of government across the nation experiencing difficult times, I believe we can expect to see more conversations like the one in a recent Lexington Herald-Leader editorial:
…it’s so hard to find a solution for Lexington’s underfunded police and fire pension system. Through multiple mayors and council members, two task forces and endless computations, the facts have remained stubbornly stark, changing only for the worse.
The editorial goes on to paint a bleak picture for the city’s police and fire protection pensions pointing out that the unfunded liability is nearly half a billion dollars. After setting the stage, a solution to the problem is suggested: mutual sacrifice for taxpayers, police and firefighters, and legislators.
- police officers and fire fighters put their lives on the line each and every day,
- that police and fire protection have lobbied for very generous benefits,
- a stock market crash has muddied the waters of appropriately funding pensions,
- the state legislature needs to step up and help solve this problem
For Lexington taxpayers: You’ve enjoyed the security of excellent police and fire protection but you haven’t paid the full price for it.
Suing because it’s not happening
The Detroit Free Press reports the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the state on behalf of students who are reading way below grade level. The Michigan ACLU claims the law says either kids must be reading at grade level or receive extra help to learn to read.
There are claims that this is the first-ever lawsuit in this country concerning an alleged basic right to learn to read. In the Michigan ACLU’s own web site, they say:
“This is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit asserting a child’s fundamental right to read.”
As a note, in 2011 the statewide grade 8 reading proficiency rate on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was 32 percent in Michigan and scarcely better at 36 percent in Kentucky. Furthermore, Michigan excluded a lot fewer of its learning disabled students than Kentucky did on this assessment, so the real proficiency rate difference is even smaller than the reported scores indicate.
If the basic premise of the Michigan suit holds up – that being able to read is a student right – then watch for this liberal group to go on the warpath in other states because the NAEP shows reading is problematic across the country.