Bluegrass Institute welcomes new Vice President of Policy Initiatives

Bluegrass Institute welcomes new Vice President of Policy Initiatives  

Denis Frankenberger will lead right-to-work campaign

(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Louisville entrepreneur and government watchdog Denis Frankenberger has been named the Bluegrass Institute’s Vice President of Policy Initiatives.

Frankenberger is the former president and CEO of Advance Machinery Co. – one of the nation’s largest machine tool dealers and integrators of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, which was acquired by G.E. Capital.

“I admire and agree with what the Bluegrass Institute stands for and accomplishes,” Frankenberger said. “I look forward to joining the organization’s talented and dedicated team to advance free-market policies that will help turn Kentucky from being a government-dependent state to a mecca of economic growth and true prosperity.”

Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters praised Frankenberger for his commitment to the principles of liberty and for his tenacity as a private citizen in holding local governments accountable for how taxpayer dollars get spent.

“We are very fortunate to have someone with Denis’s exceptional entrepreneurial success and extensive experience in growing companies and creating jobs in the private sector,” Waters said. “Kentucky taxpayers, businesses and entrepreneurs will benefit greatly from his efforts.”

Frankenberger will lead the institute’s efforts to bring a right-to-work policy to Kentucky.

“While the institute is currently engaged in a number of issues, I believe one of the most important for the commonwealth’s economy is to get the legislature to implement a right-to-work policy,” he said. “Having come from the manufacturing industry, I know how vital this is to major firms that so obviously bypass our state for the very reason that we do not provide right-to-work protections for Kentucky workers.”

For more information, contact Jim Waters at or 270-320-4376.

Legalize School Choice campaign: The debates go on

The Bluegrass Institute’s “Free to Learn” debate series kicked off with the opening forum on Dec. 3 at Southern Baptist Seminary’s Heeren Hall.

Craig Meredith, Ph.D., a former Ohio superintendent, and University of Kentucky education professor Wayne Lewis, Ph.D., who also serves on the Kentucky Charter Schools Association board, had a civil, but serious, exchange of views on the value, need and impact of public charter schools.

The event, which is a must-see for anyone wanting to better understand the differing views on public charter schools, was live-streamed and now is available for viewing here on YouTube.

 Debate Pic3

Linda Duncan, a longtime member of the Jefferson County school board, who initially committed to debate Lewis, rudely backed out at the last minute – right on the cusp of a holiday weekend.

Ducan said she was getting internal pressure – no doubt from the central office of JCPS – a school district where, on average, a 20-point gap in math proficiency rates exists between white and black students at every school level – elementary, middle and high schools.

That district’s rulers didn’t want their subjects appearing on a stage anywhere in the River City with anyone of Lewis’ credibility and stature.

We will soon have details on the second debate in this series.

USA Today Publishes BIPPS: Opposing Cigarette Tax Increases

USAToday logo

Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters was asked to provide the Opposing View for Thursday’s lead editorial in USA Today.

He makes the case against raising cigarette taxes to reduce smoking rates.

“Education, making smoking less culturally acceptable and appealing to citizens’ personal responsibility have been effective in reducing smoking, particularly among the young,” he writes. “Smoking rates among Kentucky’s teens dropped dramatically during the decade even before Kentucky last raised cigarette taxes in 2009.”

Read the op-ed here.

New Report: Does Kentucky’s ‘Unbridled Learning’ school accountability program leave minorities behind?

New Report: Does Kentucky’s ‘Unbridled Learning’ school accountability program leave minorities behind?
(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — A new Bluegrass Institute report reveals evidence that Kentucky’s school accountability program provides inconsistent and sometimes unreliable assessments of school performance.

The report, “Kentucky’s ‘Unbridled Learning,’ Unrigorous School Accountability for African-American Students?,” examines math performance for whites and African-American students in all of Kentucky’s schools. Some of the findings are surprising:

  • Fayette County’s Scapa at Bluegrass’ has an African-American middle school math proficiency rate of 9.1 percent is a rate less than half of the statewide rate for this racial group, and far below the 82.1 percent proficiency rate turned in by the schools’ white students. Yet despite its dismally low African-American math proficiency rate, Scapa at Bluegrass received a superior Unbridled Learning classification of “Distinguished,” ranking the school among the top 10 percent of all schools in Kentucky.

Supposedly, even with overall high scores, Unbridled Learning will tag a school with serious achievement gap problems as a “Focus” school. However, Scapa somehow avoided “Focus” school flagging despite the poor math performance for its African-Americans. This raises concerns that the “Focus” mechanism needs work.

  • Latonia Elementary School in Covington was not only identified as a “Proficient” school, a top 30 percent classification, but it also was shown as a “High Progress School” under Unbridled Learning. That is hard to reconcile with the fact that this school’s African-American math proficiency dropped from an already dismal 8.8 percent in 2012 to 0.0 percent in 2013. Still, Latonia just got praise from Unbridled Learning. It didn’t get a “Focus” flag.
  • Danville High School got a “Proficient” rating from Unbridled Learning, supposedly placing this school’s performance among the top 30 percent in Kentucky. But Danville’s African-American students’ math proficiency tumbled from 33.3 percent last year to a depressing 0.0 percent proficiency rate in 2013. The school still dodged becoming “Focus” school, raising more concerns about what Unbridled Learning tells us about this school.
  • Overall, the report shows three elementary schools, five middle schools and three high schools had 0.0 percent math proficiency rates for their African-American students in 2013. Only five, less than half, of those 11 schools got a “Focus” flag.

“After 23 years of KERA reforms, the idea that Kentucky still has schools turning in single digit, indeed sometimes zero, math proficiency rates is incredibly disappointing,” said Richard Innes, staff education analyst at the Bluegrass Institute and author of the new report. “The fact that Unbridled Learning isn’t identifying those problems is highly problematic.”

Innes called on the Kentucky Department of Education to address such a dramatically low performance by making changes to the Unbridled Learning assessment policy before the next round of results are released after the current school-term ends.

For more information, contact Richard Innes at or 859-466-8198 or Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters at jwaters@freedomkentucky.comor 270-320-4376

Freedom is the best legacy. #GivingTuesday

Celebrate #GivingTuesday with a charitable gift to your favorite cause –

advancing liberty and prosperity in Kentucky!

Freedom is the best legacy.

And thank you for your support all year round!

Click the image below to make an online donation to the Bluegrass Institute

and let your friends know on social media with the hashtag #GivingTuesday and referencing @BIPPS

Children Playing

Legalize School Choice

Kentucky is one of only eight states that does not allow charter schools. Why?

Learn about school choice!



Auditor: Former Dayton Independent superintendent got almost $250,000 in unauthorized payments

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.

Beshear presses again to raise dropout age to 18

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.

Bluegrass Beacon: Small business owner: ‘Obamacare’ bad for Kentucky

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.”

But will Budlove, 50, who suffers both physical and psychological problems, still have a home in 2014?

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

News Release: BIPPS joins new coalition to advance wireless access for all Kentuckians

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.

For more information, please contact Jim Waters at 270-782-2140