Today in Lexington, Bluegrass Institute vice chairman Warren Rogers held a debate sponsored by the Lexington Forum. KY Chamber of Commerce President David Adkisson made a very informative comment about right to work in Kentucky. We’ll let him tell you his perspective. (you might want to post this around to your friends!)
Did you know?
- Kentucky coal is a $5.3 billion dollar industry, producing 112.9 million tons per year.
- There are more than 18,000 coal mining jobs in Kentucky, and each one supports three other Kentucky coal company workers.
- Starting salaries for miners in rural Kentucky range from $65,000 to $70,000.
- Kentucky produces the third most amount of coal in the nation and 94% of it goes toward electric power plants.
As a result of these happy facts, Kentucky consistently enjoys one of the lowest electricity costs per kWh in the nation. However, that could change very quickly if the US Court of Appeals upholds sweeping new Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Kentucky and 15 other states are suing the EPA for enacting pollution rules in breach of the Clean Air Act.
According to Kentucky Coal Association President, Bill Bissett, the source of much of anti-coal sentiment comes from a lack of understanding of how important coal is to Kentucky:
“If you buy a Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid car, 92 of every 100 miles you travel in Kentucky are powered by coal, 92 of 100 emails, and 92 of 100 cell phone calls are powered by coal. The ‘black rock’ is providing the power to record this interview. Kentuckians don’t realize how important coal-fired power plants are in their daily life.”
Late in 2011 we began the process of requesting the fiscal year 2009 and 2010 check registers for the Northern Kentucky Area Planning
Commission (NKAPC). Those PDF’s are now available on the ‘NKAPC Open Records Request‘ page on FreedomKentucky.org.
The NKAPC has come under fire in recent years for excessive spending and these check registers will help shed a little light as to the activities that allegedly justify that type of taxpayer money being spent.
Fiscal transparency for government agencies is not just good policy. It is a taxpayer’s right to know how his hard earned money is being spent.
This week, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is scheduled to hear arguments from 16 states, including Kentucky, that challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s sweeping new greenhouse gas regulations. According to the states, the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule was enacted illegally without independent scientific review, as required by the Clear Air Act.
This is not the only run-in Kentucky has had with federal agencies overstepping their boundaries. In October 2010, Gov. Beshear and the Kentucky Coal Association (KCA) filed suit against the EPA for blocking 11 water permits in the Appalachian region which were approved by the Kentucky Division of Environmental Protection.
According to KCA President, Bill Bissett, the economic uncertainty created by the EPA’s unilateral rulings only serve to make electricity more expensive for Kentuckians and cost the state desperately needed jobs:
Kentucky benefits from one of the lowest cost per kilowatt rates in the nation. When Gov. Beshear travels to India to lure manufacturers to the commonwealth, one of the first things he talks about is Kentucky’s rate per kilowatt hour. Kentucky continues to benefit by retaining manufacturing that many other states have lost not to other states but to other countries. If electric utility rates increase because of environmental surcharges, it will damage the state’s ability to attract manufactures and likely cause manufacturers – like aluminum companies – to consider overseas locations.
We’ll continue to follow these lawsuits as they develop.
Yesterday the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released the testing results from the fall for the PLAN and EXPLORE testing in Kentucky.
These two tests are coordinated at the grade appropriate level with the ACT college entrance test and use similar Benchmark Scores to show if students are on track to be successful in college and careers.
The EXPLORE is given to eighth grade students in Kentucky while our 10th graders take the PLAN.
Since I participated in a panel on charter schools in Louisville last night (more on that later), the first analysis I did on the new data focused on Kentucky’s largest school district. The table below shows what I found.
Among Louisville’s 21 regular high schools (special alternative schools don’t get test results), the majority – 14 of them – had really disappointing results for PLAN mathematics performance. In these 14 schools (highlighted in pink) fewer than 20 percent of the students scored at or above the PLAN Math Benchmark Score.
That means the overwhelming majority of the students in those schools are not on track for college and careers.
In a real shock, six of the schools posted math benchmark performance in the single-digit category. Fewer than one in ten of the students in those schools are on track to survive the first college math course they would take in a two- or four-year postsecondary school.
District wide, Jefferson County’s 10th grade students scored below the statewide math benchmark, as well.
Statewide, the new PLAN 2011-2012 Profile Summary Report shows that our students scored well below the national norm PLAN score for mathematics set in 2010, leaving Jefferson County even farther behind that national norm.
Clearly, a lot more needs to happen for kids in math, both statewide and in the state’s largest school system. PLAN makes that very clear.
And, as I recently pointed out here and here, the relative performance improvement in charter schools versus non-charter schools for math make these schools of choice and innovation look even more attractive for Kentucky.
While Kentuckians have to listen to excuses about why our state won’t move forward with innovative education solutions, Louisiana’s governor is displaying leadership and taking measures to empower education professionals with the authority they need to make significant reforms in their school systems.
From the Pelican Post:
The existing law includes language that prohibits school board members from exercising undue influence over superintendents when they make personnel decisions. Moreover, the legislation seeks to insulate superintendents from board politics by requiring a 2/3 vote of school board members to terminate the district leader mid-contract.
Union officials have been critical of the bill but Carter sees cause for encouragement. Instead of school boards constantly “looking over their shoulder,” superintendents and principals now have greater flexibility, Carter explained.
Kentucky is still hanging on to the School Based Decision Making council model that ties the hands of principals and superintendents by putting curriculum and hiring decisions in the hands of teachers and parents who, while undoubtedly have great intentions, are not education administration professionals.
Gov. Jindal has called for additional policy changes that would “get school boards out of the hiring and firing business,”
Kentucky needs this type of vision and leadership.