Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center on the fiscal chopping block?
In a move raising eyebrows around the state, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports the Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center (KLTPRC) may get the total ‘axe’ in the pending budget.
This 17-year old unit would be closed on June 30th along with a savings of $560,000 under language just inserted into the working budget document.
Michael Childress, the center’s executive director is expressing surprise and says there has been no explanation for the sudden shutdown. He says no one has told him if this is due to someone being upset about past reporting from the KLTPRC.
Childress’ comments are echoed by Senate budget chairman Bob Leeper. Leeper told the Herald-Leader that this cut comes simply because money is tight and the KLTPRC does not seem to be a necessity.
We at the Bluegrass Institute are as surprised as everyone else by the announcement.
We had no part in the current budget action.
However, it is no secret that we criticized two KLTPRC papers on Kentucky’s educational performance. We pointed out that in general the data comparisons in those papers were problematic, while two of the data comparisons were totally inappropriate.
The first of those problematic reports was KLTPRC Policy Notes #23, which came out in October 2007. This report ranked Kentucky against the other 50 states on a variety of indicators. Our analysis raised many general questions about all of the data and showed two indicators in particular were highly inappropriate for state to state ranking.
Those were Kentucky’s high school dropout rates and ACT college entrance test scores.
Kentucky’s dropout rates had been officially audited by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts one year prior to the release of KLTPRC Policy Notes #23. They were found to be unreliable. Yet, a year following this official audit, the KLTPRC ranked these unreliable dropout rates anyway.
The second problem involved ranking the ACT college entrance scores for all 50 states. This is highly unacceptable because ACT participation rates for high school graduates vary dramatically around the nation. You simply cannot do an intelligent ranking of the data for Kentucky, where around 70 percent of the graduates take the ACT, to a state on the East Coast, where participation rates are very low, sometimes as low as single-digit percentages. In fact, I contacted the ACT for their comment on this ranking, and that organization said they strongly discourage doing such ranking with their test scores.
That didn’t stop the KLTPRC.
And, when I discussed these issues with the KLTPRC staff after Policy Notes #23 was released, it had no effect. In April 2009 the research unit issued KLTPRC Policy Notes #27, which updated the rankings from the earlier paper.
Once again, despite our previously pointing out that the data was unreliable, the dropout rates were ranked. Once again, the ACT scores were ranked although state participation rates continued to vary dramatically.
Overall, while we have taken strong issue with two KLTPRC reports, overall the Bluegrass Institute has not examined all of the research from this group, and we have not formed an opinion concerning the value the organization may be providing to the state.
And, of course, the budget is still in flux, so any pronouncement of the death of the KLTPRC is premature.