There’s a perception that government workers are underpaid and therefore deserve better benefits than are typically offered in the private sector. The facts offer a different view.
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The Pew Center on the States noted recently that Kentucky was at the bottom when it came to state-issued funding for its pension systems. In 2009, Pew noted that Kentucky put just 58% of the actuarially-recommended amount of money into the state’s pension funds. In 2010, Kentucky again put just 58% of the actuarially-recommended sum. That put Kentucky at the bottom of the pension funding list.
First of all, this is a terrible turn of events that, far from being unforeseeable, was largely predictable. After all, lawmakers run for office every two or four years. Funding pensions properly during the good times is a challenge when reelection prospects might be shored up by funding a local arena project instead of making appropriate contributions to the pension funds. During the 2000s, Kentucky lawmakers put aside a small fraction of the recommended contributions into the Kentucky pension funds and the economy was doing reasonably well over the same period. What everyone should recognize is this: Kentucky’s pension plans were underfunded before the financial crisis.
And it should come as no surprise that funding pensions during tight budgetary times is even more difficult. In tight budgetary times, it’s easier to cut funding to pension programs than it is to social programs. Wise stewardship of government workers’ pensions seems to always come second to some other priority in good times and bad.
This is not to say that funding social programs should or should not be a higher priority than funding state pensions. It’s just to point out that what supposedly took lawmakers by surprise in 2008 and 2009 was as predictable as the tides.
While Kentucky parents have virtually no choices in where their children go to school, Indiana has just stepped out with one of the most expansive parent choice programs in the nation.
As we mentioned in April, Indiana was in the process of enacting a historic school voucher law that would allow parents to send their children to whatever school they choose and the school tax dollars would follow their child.
That law has now been enacted and signed.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says:
“For families who cannot find the right traditional public school, or the right charter public school for their child, and are not wealthy enough to move near one, justice requires that we help. We should let these families apply dollars that the state spends on their child to the non-government school of their choice.”
Daniels explains that Indiana must honor and trust parents to make the right choices for their children.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky the system sends signals to parents every day that it does not trust them.
Read more about the new Indiana law here.
And, here is the Wall Street Journal’s take.
The Kentucky Department of Education has announced that ACT, Incorporated, the creator of the ACT college entrance tests, will supply new high school end of course exams in English II, Algebra II, Biology and U.S. History for all public schools in Kentucky.
ACT, Inc. already supplies the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT tests for all Kentucky eighth, tenth and eleventh grade students. These three, coordinated assessments check student progress on getting educations for college and careers.
The selection of ACT for the four new end of course assessments should insure a high degree of linkage between those courses and what students need to learn in them to be ready for college and careers, as well.
ACT, Incorporated has an extensive track record in developing tests that measure what is important. Aside from the ACT, which checks on preparation for college, ACT also creates the Work Keys assessments for business and industry, which tests for skills needed in non-college careers. This unique expertise in both higher education and business needs positions ACT to provide superior products to Kentucky.
Kentucky faces a prescription-drug abuse crisis that Gov. Beshear rightly described in his recent congressional testimony as “the fastest growing, most prolific substance abuse issue facing our country.”
That’s precisely why Kentucky lawmakers rightly resisted proposed legislation during the 2011 session of the Kentucky General Assembly to require prescriptions for purchasing cold and allergy products containing pseudoephedrine – an ingredient used to make methamphetamine, a highly addictive and terribly destructive drug.
Why do some law-enforcement officers vow to keep fighting for this misguided approach when, if passed, it would exacerbate one of our most serious drug-abuse problems? The proposed policy would also remove the current real-time tracking system known as MethCheck, which blocks 10,000 grams of potentially illegal sales of meth ingredients each month.
Pharmaceutical companies implemented and funded the MethCheck system, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. While we may not have “won” the meth war, we are containing it as law enforcement officials have the tools to find and shut down more meth labs than ever.
What other answers might the private sector come up with that could offer more success than the government solutions that have failed to curb the prescription-drug abuse crisis?
A favorite mantra of defenders of the status quo in Kentucky’s public education system is that poverty is standing in the way of many students getting the education they deserve. However, the evidence does not support this claim.
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