New Report: Does Kentucky’s ‘Unbridled Learning’ school accountability program leave minorities behind?
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advancing liberty and prosperity in Kentucky!
Freedom is the best legacy.
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Case being referred to FBI
New superintendent asked for audit
In the latest of an on-going stream of highly revealing audits of improper activities in local school systems around Kentucky, Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Adam H. Edelen just released a new shocker on highly questionable payments to the recently retired superintendent in the Dayton Independent School District.
According to the Kentucky Enquirer’s coverage, which names Gary Rye as the former superintendent, the auditor says the former superintendent got nearly a quarter of a million dollars in unauthorized benefits.
Providing evidence of the seriousness of the findings, the Enquirer says:
“The findings have been turned over by Edelen to the FBI, Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and the Kentucky Department of Revenue.”
Go to the Enquirer’s article to see a really dramatic clip from the auditor’s press conference.
I don’t understand what part of “it isn’t working in other states” the governor does not understand, but it’s reported that Kentucky’s governor, Steve Beshear, is again going to propose legislation to raise the minimum high school dropout age in the state to 18.
I researched the performance of Age 18 legislation in 14 states and Washington, DC that have had such a rule for a significant number of years.
This graph shows what I found.
In general, in most of these states with significant Age 18 experience, the trend in high school graduation rates has been worse than the overall national average trend.
I repeated this research again when the 2009 graduation rate data came out, and nothing really changed for these 15 education jurisdictions.
In other words, just raising the minimum age to drop out to 18 does not improve graduation rates. It just means kids drop out at an older age.
But, if we keep them in school longer, we will have to find classroom space for these kids, and there are a ton of them, a lot more than the state has ever wanted to officially admit. So, enacting Age 18 legislation could require new school construction at a time when the state budget is in crisis and many aging school buildings are on hold for repair or replacement.
We will also need more teachers, as well. They don’t come cheap, either.
The governor should know all of that, of course.
Now, if we really want to solve the dropout problem, we must find ways to reignite interest in kids who have become disheartened and turned off by our existing schools. Forcing them to stay inside the school walls is no way to do that.
Creating innovative charter schools could help, as it has done in places like Chicago, Boston and New York City.
Getting really creative with digital learning programs can help, too.
But, turning schools into Age 18 stalags is unlikely to do anything more than create problems like more super frustrated and angry teens. And, after what recently happened in Connecticut, creating frustrated and angry teens is the last thing Kentucky needs.
By Jim Waters
When Dennis Budlove arrived at the Fern Terrace personal long-term care facility in Bowling Green nine months ago, he said “I felt like I came home.”
If Obamacare’s employer mandates remain unchanged, 4,000 residents in Kentucky’s 94 personal care homes in 82 different counties could face desperate situations, including homelessness.
Obamacare mandates that once firms grow beyond 50 employees without offering health insurance benefits, they must pay a $2,000 annual penalty for each additional employee hired – employees who will end up receiving government-subsidized health insurance.
For Owensboro’s Jack Simpson, owner of Budlove’s home and four additional personal care facilities in Owensboro, Mayfield and Murray, the bill will simply be too high.
Having endured years of abuse from state regulators and pure apathy from nearly every politician he’s approached, Simpson says the $289,000 bill he will receive for not providing health insurance to the 200 caregivers whose jobs he created will cripple operations.
“The cost would be tremendous,” Simpson said. “It would be more than I intend to pay, so that would leave me nothing to do but close.”
While not all personal care homes in Kentucky are as well-maintained as Simpson’s, he is a philanthropic entrepreneur who’s done a remarkable job of building, staffing and providing for his facilities that care for Kentuckians who neither qualify for a nursing home vacancy nor can afford an assisted living facility – all for $38.60 a day.
It’s the Lord’s work.
“I pay $822 a month,” Budlove said. “If you add up what they’re giving me here – especially the medical supplies – it would cost you more than that on the outside. Here, my medical is taken care of; there’s no co-pay and they make sure that I take my medicines at the right time and in the right amount, and they get me to the doctor. Plus, I’ve eaten healthier meals – more fruits and vegetables – since I lived at home with mom.”
How would a shutdown at Fern Terrace impact Budlove and his fellow residents at the impeccably well-run indigent-care home?
“There’s a lot of people here that would be homeless,” he said. “If I had to move out of here, I’d pretty much be lost.”
Whoever said “what happens in Washington stays in Washington” has never met Budlove.
Don’t count on the current gubernatorial administration in Frankfort to ensure the most vulnerable among us – including Budlove – don’t end up “lost,” either.
Simpson has tried repeatedly through the years to get the Beshear administration to assist him in different ways, including helping get personal care facilities qualified for Medicaid funding. Other states, including neighboring Missouri, have already taken this step.
Not only has the Beshear administration refused to help, many of Frankfort’s bureaucrats seem openly hostile to Simpson, his personal care homes and the industry in general.
Including the personal care homes under Medicaid would result in higher reimbursements and save the commonwealth a ton of money.
For instance, many patients in Simpson’s homes are indigent and suffer from poor mental health. Considering a patient’s daily cost at one of Kentucky’s regional mental health hospitals is $685 per day, the fact that Simpson’s facilities are providing that care for a paltry $38.60 a day accrues to thousands in savings each month for each resident.
To slap Simpson with a $289,000 bill would eat up so much of that already insufficient reimbursement rate that he could no longer afford to house, feed and provide medicine and care for the residents at his first-class homes.
It also would add hundreds to Kentucky’s unemployment lines.
Jim Waters is acting president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at email@example.com.
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free market think tank, has joined forces with Citizens for a Digital Future, a coalition of several prominent national and Kentucky organizations, to rid the commonwealth of obstacles that stand in the way of increasing availability of — and access to — broadband and digital technologies.
“The potential for wireless and broadband is unlimited in our state, but the Legislature must get out the bush hog and begin to clear out the underbrush of antiquated, outdated regulations that keep telecom companies from increasing their investment in the infrastructure needed to increase wireless coverage in Kentucky,” said Jim Waters, interim president of the Bluegrass Institute.
Waters spoke at a recent teleconference launching the Kentucky chapter of Citizens for a Digital Future.
Joining Waters was Bryan Sunderland, vice president of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, who emphasized that increasing access to broadband will help pave the commonwealth’s road to prosperity.
“With seven states along our border and technology making it increasingly easy for businesses to locate anywhere, it is essential that Kentucky maintain a competitive edge in the race for jobs and economic growth,” Sunderland said. “Availability of broadband plays an important role in supporting and fostering job growth.”
Others who participated in the tele-conference launch included CDF chairman John Watson, Gary Gerdemann, executive director of CDF-Kentucky, and Hance Haney, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a national public policy think tank.
Expanding — and improving — Kentucky’s tele-communications infrastructure will also play a critical role in our future education policy, Waters said.
“Technology — especially that which utilizes broadband tools like tablets and iPads — already plays a primary role in preparing our students for the challenges of the 21st century workplace,” Waters said.
A recent report by the institute, “Digital Learning Now: Obstacles to Implementation in Kentucky,” calls upon legislators and education leaders to increase students’ access to more virtual and blended-learning class tracks.
By Jim Waters
This is the season political junkies live for. Presidential elections, with all of their twists and turns, polls and prognostications, are what partisans crave.
The most recent debate between Gov. Romney and President Obama was – if little else – great political theater. I must admit, it was fun – at least for a moment.
Around 23 million are struggling to find employment. Gas prices are off the charts. And with the looming implementation of the federal health care reform known as Obamacare – our tax burden is getting ready to be heavier than a bag of Fort Knox gold.
Actually, while it’s bad out there across the nation, it’s even worse here in the commonwealth.
The current visionless gubernatorial administration wants to manufacture its own legacy: we didn’t have any money, but we kept the ship of state afloat. Its supporters think we should show more gratitude for our benevolent leaders in Frankfort – especially Gov. Beshear, as if he were our grand Government Papa – that saw the commonwealth through these dark days.
The economic evidence is scant, at best, for such a legacy narrative. Even as the national unemployment rate dropped a bit to 7.8 percent, Kentucky’s has actually increased in some recent months and now stands at 8.4 percent. Many counties have more than 13 percent of their workforce unemployed.
During that period, more than 700 jobs in the state’s health-care industry alone disappeared – faster than debate moderator CNN’s Candy Crowley could tell Gov. Romney to “sit down.”
A primary reason those jobs no longer exist is because of the pressures brought to bear by Obamacare, which is forcing down reimbursement rates to health care providers.
It was hoped that such policies would drive down health care costs for individual Kentuckians. So far, the federal health care reform has succeeded only in putting hundreds more Kentuckians out of work as providers adjust to the lower rates for their services by cutting positions.
But the problems are not limited to the health care sector. Hundreds of manufacturing and professional services jobs also were lost just during that stretch.
Yet – and here’s where most Kentuckians should be scratching their heads – during that same period, when hundreds of good jobs in the private sector disappeared, the government sector added 800 jobs.
So, while thousands of coal miners, manufacturers and health-care workers stand in unemployment lines, government employment is growing – adding positions with their costly perks and benefits, at the expense of the already completely overwhelmed taxpayers.
If you think Frankfort is teeming with hard work these days about how to solve these problems, think again.
The governor is out distributing hundreds of thousands of road-fund dollars in districts where some of his get-along, go-along incumbent political pals are in tough reelection fights.
I’m sure it’s much more fun for the governor to give away your tax dollars to help save the political skins of his comrades than it is to, say, fix the state’s faltering Medicaid program or deal with the commonwealth’s bloated debt..
In fact, a new Institute for Truth in Accounting report ranks Kentucky near the very bottom (No. 46) with regards to state debt and taxpayer burden.
“This state’s bills greatly exceed its assets,” the report declared.
Guess who pays? According to the ITA report, which labels Kentucky a “sinkhole” state, the burden for this debt adds up to $23,500 for every single Kentucky taxpayer.
So, enjoy the flurry and hoopla of the political season while you can.
Kentucky’s sinkhole remains.
Jim Waters is acting president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read previously published columns at www.freedomkentucky.org/bluegrassbeacon.
By Jim Waters
Could it be that one of the reasons Kentucky’s political leaders continue to kick the commonwealth’s can of unfunded pension-liabilities down the road is because they are counting on a bailout from the federal government?
If private companies like General Motors are too big to fail, then what’s to keep states like Kentucky that face huge pension liabilities from seeking their own bowl of Washington-made green gravy?
It must have made the hearts of Gov. Steve Beshear and his political pals controlling the House in Frankfort leap with relief when they heard fellow Dem and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently run the idea of a federal bailout for his state’s $167 billion pension liability up the political flagpole.
For years – particularly when economic times were good – Kentucky’s politicians padded pension and health-care benefits as a way of currying political favor, even bringing private entities into the take. The bloated system now has 1,701 different entities, along with their thousands of employees, connected to our state government’s pension teat.
The story of states’ failing pension funds has been repeated nationwide. States now face a combined total of$2.5 trillion in unfunded pension costs, including Kentucky’s $34 billion liability.
Giving such funding power to cowardly politicians in the first place was like giving car keys and whiskey to teenage boys. An ensuing crash is inevitable, and a bailout would only acquiesce to their disastrous behavior.
In the same way, bailing out these states would be like repeating that process all over again – even after experiencing such disastrous consequence Besides, do we really want the federal government adding to its already mountainous debt with such bailouts?
As the Wall Street Journal noted while referencing a report by the Illinois Policy Institute, federal bailouts of state pension funds “end up pitting states against each other.”
Why should hardworking taxpayers in Washington state – whose pension system at 95 percent funded is the nation’s healthiest – be forced to subsidize the abuse of Kentucky’s pension system by politicians in the form of overspending and benefit creep during the past several decades, which has left the commonwealth’s workers’ retirement funding level at barely 30 percent?
This becomes an even more pertinent question when you realize that there has been little interest in ramping down spending by Gov. Beshear’s administration. A new Cato Institute report ranking America’s governors gives Beshear a “D” for his economic performance, citing “his proposed substantial spending increases in recent years.”
To continue proposing “substantial spending increases” even as the state’s pension hole sinks deeper and deeper is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.
What’s worse, politically cozy retirement-board members have hastened the inevitable wreck by using elaborate accounting maneuvers to offer a much-rosier picture of Kentucky’s public pension situation than reality dictates.
By guaranteeing the retirement plans a fantasy-driven 7.75 percent return on investment, the state makes the unfunded liability less than it would be with more reasonable assumptions. It’s like deciding that your bank account will reap a 6 percent return, writing checks on those expected funds, and then wanting the bank to cover the difference when the yields are only half that much.
The bank will do something all right – but it won’t be covering the difference.
The Wall Street Journal compared the federal-bailout idea to “the GM strategy” employed by labor unions during the automaker’s near-demise: “Never make a concession at the state level, figuring that if things get really bad the federal government will have no political choice but to bail out the pensions if not the entire state.”
As long as Frankfort’s politicians can continue to enjoy the political benefits of protecting the status quo by treating their bloated pension benefits as an “inviolable contract,” little incentive will exist to change, and the current administration will drag the commonwealth ever closer to insolvency.
Bluegrass Institute will lead breakout session at this weekend’s Freedom-Liberty Conference in Louisville
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Bluegrass Institute will lead a breakout session this Saturday, Oct. 20, at the annual Freedom and Liberty Conference in Louisville.
The conference, in its third year, will be held at the Ramada Plaza, 9700 Bluegrass Parkway, begins with registration on Friday, Oct. 19. at 5 p.m., followed by a leadership training session from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, there will be feature presentations, lectures and breakout sessions designed to equip Kentuckians with the knowledge they need to make an impact across the commonwealth.
“Last year’s event with Dick Armey and Andrew Breitbart were a big hit and the breakout sessions were just as good,” said Jim Waters, acting president of the Bluegrass Institute, who also will be a featured speaker at the Saturday morning session. “This conference will equip individual Kentuckians, help grow an educated electorate and give all who attend a renewed sense of empowerment to protect our founding documents – the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.”
The Bluegrass Institute’s breakout session on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. will focus on the institute’s mission, an overview of current policy initiatives, the institute’s Board of Scholars, best practices for open records requests and Kentucky’s public pension crisis.
As part of the institute’s presentation, D. Eric Schansberg, Ph.D., economics professor at Indiana University Southeast and a member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Scholars, will lead a presentation involving budget, school choice and health care issues.
The institute’s session will include plenty of Q&A and discussion time during each segment.
The keynote speaker for the event is Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America.
Tickets can be purchased at www.flcky.com.