For Massachusetts voters, the most important item on the ballot November 4 won’t be the one that asks them to choose between Barack Obama and John McCain.
In Kentucky – Some Data Is Top Secret
In New Jersey even the governor is getting serious about the critical problem of high public school dropout rates. He is spearheading a new effort to cut the number of kids who don’t graduate from high school.
And, in an interesting twist, because low graduation rates impact a lot more than the school system, the New Jersey effort is being headed by that state’s attorney general’s office! After all, the attorney general’s staff is too often responsible for the “follow-on activity” for kids who don’t make it through high school, and the legal system knows the problems with these kids best, so why shouldn’t they be in charge?
Clearly, New Jersey’s chief executive gets it; kids who drop out of school too often head into a life of crime, which adds huge fiscal and social expenses to the state. And, the New Jersey department of education, after many years of primary responsibility for fixing the problem, needs a replacement as effort leader.
If naysayers in New Jersey want to undermine their governor’s alarm, they certainly could use Kentucky as an example. According to the latest calculations from the federal government, in the 2005-06 school year New Jersey had a public high school graduation rate of 84.8 percent while Kentucky’s rate was notably lower at 77.6 percent. If Kentucky had matched New Jersey’s graduation rate for that school year, we’d have had over 3,500 more high school graduates and that many fewer dropouts. This would have added almost 10 percent to the size of the Kentucky Class of 2006 while significantly reducing the potential burden on our fast-growing penal system. Unfortunately, if history is any guide, instead we must plan for the probable addition of thousands more to our prison roles.
By the way, because the Bluegrass Institute just published our report on white and black graduation rate and academic gaps in Jefferson County, I wanted to see what the new federal report showed for disaggregated rates for racial groups.
I was wasting my time.
Kentucky was one of only four states that decided to keep this data from the feds. Since our overall graduation rate increased from 2002-03 to 2005-06 in the federal report, one has to wonder why our white, Hispanic, and black rates were kept secret. Of course, after looking at our new report’s findings for Louisville, maybe the answer is already obvious.
Maybe it’s time for Governor Beshear to take a lead from New Jersey’s chief executive by setting up a real effort to look at graduation rates, one that will go after accurate and fully transparent data that includes all students, just as Kentucky committed to do in the National Governors’ Association several years ago. And, since the education leaders in Kentucky don’t seem to be delivering for all kids, this effort should also be headed by a group, like the state attorney general’s office, which has to deal with the consequences of what the school system isn’t accomplishing.
The threat of economic chaos can benefit politicians and policymakers by sharply focusing the mind on what really works. If rumors circulating in Frankfort are to be believed, Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration could be gaining an unexpected dose of focus.
Supposedly, the administration is seriously considering working to lower healthcare costs by repealing Kentucky’s Certificate of Need regulations in opposition to some powerful political opposition. This move finds data-driven support on the federal and state levels.
And the really big news would come if Beshear turned on his Big Labor constituency and, as has been speculated, works to get rid of Kentucky’s prevailing wage mandate.
Critics of government growth through casino proliferation sometimes claim the surest way to end the debate once and for all is to allow casinos in every state and watch them bankrupt each other in a zero-sum battle.
An article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal suggests this may already be happening:
Pie-in-the-sky government funding schemes could have great value for Kentucky if failure elsewhere motivated our politicians to bring more focus to making government smaller instead of continuing the hunt for iffy revenue streams.
Kentuckians who don’t play golf may not even know about the money they are spending to subsidize the activities of those who do.
And of course this “special deal” doesn’t even include municipal courses in the state. Anyone care to take a stab at justifying this use of our public resources?
A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University poll shows what happens when a population gets too comfortable with big, expensive government.
The poll showed that Illinois favors a tax increase but only on “the rich,” and thinks that spending should be cut, but only for highly-paid government employee salaries.
The poll showed 73% of voters rejected spending cuts on services for the needy and 65% reject cuts for state worker pensions. The Illinois comptroller says the state has a $1.8 billion backlog in current bills.
In their panic, expect massive tax increases for the people in Illinois. It would help if their vast problems served as a canary in the big-government coal mine for Kentuckians.
Thanks to Americans for Tax Reform for passing this along.