Gambling is not the best way to solve state budget, horse-racing woes.
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House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who tried to “persuade” legislators to vote for expanded gambling at Kentucky’s horse tracks by promising that some of the revenue would go to repair crumbling schools, is now saying that those who voted against gambling might be in trouble. Check out this warmed-over political gumbo from Stumbo:
“I wouldn’t want to go home and defend a vote of non-action on behalf of my leadership, that when people expect you to act and also wonder why for example you wouldn’t vote for schools in your own district,” Stumbo said.
Uh…I don’t think that’s the right recipe for success with savvy Kentucky taxpayers. Proof? “Candidates who opposed an expansion of gambling won in each of the three recent special elections in the Senate.”
Gambling is a secondary issue here. This is about the political double-dealing involved in tying a vote for VLTs at horse tracks to repairing crumbling schools. All the while Stumbo refuses to throw the dice on behalf of taxpayers by standing up to the labor unions and against the state’s current policy of paying artificially high wages on public projects.
– Many experts not fooled
It looks like high school dropouts are on a lot of peoples’ minds right now. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that many experts looking at dropout rates for Kentucky and Ohio consider the official rates to be “generous.”
In other words, experts consider the real situation to be definitely worse than the Kentucky Department of Education wants to admit.
The Enquirer quotes Cincinnati State spokesman Bob White as saying, “Everybody involved in this knows that the problem is worse than many of the published numbers. It really has to do with the way Ohio collects its data. Kentucky has a different system. You can tweak it any way you want.”
Well, Kentucky has been tweaking, but that isn’t going to pass muster much longer. The Enquirer also reports, “At the urging of the nation’s governors, the U.S. Education Department has ordered all states to use the same graduation rate methodology by 2012.” Why we have to delay to learn the truth isn’t mentioned, but we have talked about this extensively in this blog.
Why not ask your state school board member why they are delaying going to a better formula for two more years. We have the data to calculate better graduation rates with that formula now. Why are we delaying until the feds make us do it?
– All we’ve gotten so far is broken promises
Back in 2006, the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts did an official audit of the dropout and graduation rate reporting from the Kentucky Department of Education.
The auditors found the department was seriously under-reporting dropout rates and over-reporting graduation rates.
In their response to that audit, the Kentucky Department of Education claimed it would start to compute high quality graduation rates starting with the Class of 2009 (Page 44 in the audit).
In the same audit, the software vendor who was creating the program to generate that high quality data took issue with some of the audit findings, pointing out that the software was quite capable, but it was KDE policies that were getting in the way of good student tracking (Pages 45 to 46).
Also in 2006, the Kentucky Department of Education reported to the National Governors Association (NGA) that it would start high accuracy graduation rate reporting using the “NGA Compact Rate” in 2009 (Page 14).
Well, it’s 2009. Anyone seen any high accuracy graduation rate data for Kentucky?
What’s more, Appendix B in the latest Nonacademic Report from the Kentucky Department of Education now says that we won’t see high quality rates until 2014.
In the mean time, we will get two more years of the same inflated “stuff” that the auditor found. Then, only because the federal government is going to make us do it, we will get two years of somewhat more accurate estimates.
But, we could get those somewhat more accurate estimates now. Why all the foot-dragging?
And, why is the department now going to be five years late on its promise to give us accurate information?
Was it software screw-ups, or bad department of education policy decisions? Inquiring minds want to know.
Kentuckians should be scratching their heads, and wondering: Why is it, again, that the politicians went to Frankfort and spent more than a week, with each day costing the equivalent of one of Kentucky’s many well-paid teacher’s salaries?
None of the tough issues — the ones that could arguably require a special legislative session — were addressed: implementing a defined contribution program for state workers, enacting charter-school legislation that would allow Kentucky to take advantage of the second round of stimulus funding and addressing harmful labor policies that harm our chances for real economic development, including eliminating the practice of paying artificially high wages on public projects and allowing workers to choose whether they join unions.
Not a single issue was dealt with, including the budget matters passed during this $60,000-a-day special session, that could not have been done during the regular session.
Kentucky educators and legislators like to debate in the ‘safe’ zone when it comes to public education performance. More money for education, testing standards, and graduation rate statistics are safe debates. The power structure of education is not threatened. No one falls out of their comfort zone. The following video prepared by Reason TV on Education Revolt in Watts describes challenges to education reform that education power brokers in Kentucky don’t want to address:
The audit was for one school. Yet, Jefferson County has many failing schools. These schools are failing to provide students the education fundaments to compete in life.
Like the school board member in the Education Revolt in Watts said, “I’m not sure what tomorrow looks like but I’ve had enough of yesterday”.
It is long past time for Kentucky’s leadership to put student learning as the top priority and hold educators and oversight boards accountable to get the barriers to real improvement out of the way.
It is long past time draw the line in the sand and make sure taxpayers are getting the maximum learning impact from each dollar spent in the education budget.
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