While local governments put projects on hold, cut jobs and reduce benefits, KACo’s top executives were spending tax dollars on sports tickets and strippers.
Click here to listen to the audio commentary.
Just before the new school year started, Jefferson County Schools stirred a hornets’ nest with its ill-advised busing plan. This plan requires some of the school district’s five-year olds to travel well over 20 miles each way to school, making as many as three bus changes in the process.
Now, the district has put another 1,000 plus students and their parents in turmoil thanks to another, ill-thought-out action.
For a number of years, various worthwhile after school programs have been operating in the district’s schools. These programs cover a wide variety of subjects from science to dance and visual arts. That’s a good thing.
The district’s Web site even listed some of the programs such as the Young Rembrandts program, as a featured service in participating elementary schools and in individual school Web pages such as the Young Rembrandts listing here (which will probably be changed before you can link to it):
The programs were provided by for-profit organizations. Parents willingly paid the fees for these programs, which kept kids in safe and nurturing environments. It seems that everyone involved was happy.
But, not this year.
The Courier-Journal reports that someone just discovered that Jefferson County Schools has a policy that bans for-profit organizations from operating any activities in the schools.
District spokespeople make it sound like the presence of these programs was only recently discovered; but, that seems strange. Aside from Web pages happily noting these programs in the Jefferson County Schools, the district even uses some of the programs like the Young Rembrandts program as examples of how to code money transfers (as code 0590) in the MUNIS fiscal accounting system.
Surly the district would know about organizations with which it does business.
Anyway, these programs have been summarily cancelled or at least put on hold while the district tries to get its act together. At least, that is the district’s story.
So, here’s the bottom line.
(1) The precedent of these programs operating in the schools is already several years old – some programs reportedly have operated for up to 10 years in the schools.
(2) The programs were apparently popular and met a need.
(3) The programs were already underway in the current school term.
(4) The district can’t possibly have been ignorant of these programs – the district even had accounting codes for them.
So, given the history, wouldn’t it be far more parent- and student-friendly to allow the programs to at least continue through the rest of this school year rather than to abruptly cancel or suspend them without due notice to parents?
What do you think?
It looks like the US Department of Education is getting serious about making significant changes in schools – such as those we examined in our recent report on Kentucky’s No Child Left Behind Tier 5 schools – that chronically fail to improve.
The August 26, 2009 Federal Register has a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) item titled “School Improvement Grants–American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.”
This discusses rules for federal school improvement grants targeted at schools like those examined in our Tier 5 report.
There is a catch in the NPRM. In our report, we found that Kentucky’s promise to institute new governance in the state’s most severely failing schools wasn’t kept. Despite six or more years of failure, Kentucky isn’t changing governance in these bottom-performing schools.
Now, if Kentucky wants to get some federal money to help turn those schools around, it is going to have to make good on that broken promise on governance changes.
The NPRM lists one of four options for school improvement. A state must chose one to get the cash. These options are listed near the beginning of the NPRM as:
1) Turnaround model, which would include, among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing a new or revised instructional program.
2) Restart model, in which an LEA would close the school and reopen it under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization (CMO), or an educational management organization (EMO) that has been selected through a rigorous review process.
3) School closure, in which an LEA would close the school and enroll the students who attended the school in other, high-achieving schools in the LEA.
4) Transformation model, which would address four specific areas critical to transforming the lowest-achieving schools.
The requirement for governance changes is obvious in Options 1 to 3.
The requirement in Option 4 isn’t apparent in the brief description. You cannot see that the fourth option also requires governance changes until you read pages 43109 and 43110 in the Federal Register. Those pages list in detail the very specific set of requirements a “Local Education Agency” (LEA) (which is the local board of education in most cases) must follow to qualify for the federal money. It is clear under Option 4 that each LEA is required to,
“(2) Identify and reward school leaders, teachers, and other staff who improve student achievement outcomes and identify and remove those who do not; and
(3) Replace the principal who led the school prior to commencement of the transformation model.”
So, if the NPRM is adopted pretty much as currently proposed, regardless of which option it selects, Kentucky will have to make fundamental changes to the state’s current method of handling its lowest performing schools to qualify for the federal funds involved. Specifically, the state is going to have to finally change the leadership system in those schools.
Of course, Kentucky’s already broken promise to make governance changes – extensively discussed in the new Bluegrass Institute report on NCLB Tier 5 schools – could very well prevent us from qualifying for this new federal money. Our senior state educators are going to have to make some very serious changes in their own ways of doing business to recover from their past actions.
In any event, at some point, in the best interests of our students, Kentucky simply must address hard decisions concerning school staff in chronically under-performing schools.
That’s not just my opinion – it is clear that federal educators also agree.
I wrote two weeks ago about the Beechwood Independent School District’s decision to slightly lower taxes as Kentuckians face nearly unprecedented fiscal stress.
Now, another Northern Kentucky school district has managed its business in such a way that it will not need to raise taxes in the coming year.
“Hats Off” to the Walton-Verona schools for being good stewards of both education and the taxpayers money.
By the way, most Kentucky school districts would jump for joy if they had the proven educational performance at both Beechwood and Walton-Verona. Here are some interesting statistics on these well-managed systems that don’t scream “more money” every second.
“A child’s opportunity to attend a high-performing school should not depend on the family’s zip code.”
Quote from: Dr. Terry Holliday, Doc H’s Blog, Friday, August 28, 2009
Dr. Holliday, the Bluegrass Institute has said the same for many years. Once again, welcome to Kentucky!
– Taxpayers await response, action
Gov. Steve Beshear asked state employees for suggestions on how to cut costs. And boy did they!
Given the state’s fiscal condition, Beshear should not waste any time acting on many of these suggestions offered by public servants who must daily balance their own budgets and make tough decisions to make ends meet.
These folks often don’t have the power to execute their recommended changes to cut wasteful spending, eliminate inefficient policies and employ innovative practices. However, their managers do.
But how many of state government’s “middle managers” daily ignore many of the cost-cutting opportunities included in these recommendations? Could it be that it’s not their money they waste?
Enter keyword searches for words like ”lights,” “Fletcher,” “training,” or “state vehicles” to immediately see a wealth of information on opportunities to cut costs and improve the effectiveness of hard-earned taxpayer dollars extracted annually by state government.
No longer will there be silence when big-spending politicians say: “Show us where to cut costs and make improvements.”
Their own employees have told them “how.” The only uncertainty now remains “when” Frankfort will respond, and “what” that response will be.
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