I wrote on January 17, 2020 about a really bad action by the dubiously reconstituted Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), which just terminated its Finance Committee last week.
As I pointed out in that blog, the terminated committee was engaged in some extremely important and badly-needed technical work to improve the currently very troubled state of education financial reporting in the commonwealth. Now, all of that effort might be lost.
That is bad enough, but today I want to point out inconsistencies with priorities that are exposed by several board actions on the 17th, as discussed in the Kentucky Department of Education’s News Advisory 20-08.
As you read this advisory, you just have to wonder.
First, new board chair David Karem indicates that the Finance Committee was dropped because it “was an important enough topic that he believed those issues should be heard by the entire board,” as the advisory puts it. So, important topics should be heard by the entire board, right?
However, two other committees, one for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and the other for Operations, remain in place. Aren’t those really important areas, too? If so, shouldn’t these areas also be heard by the entire board?
Of course, just like the finance area, things like Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment and Operations are really detailed and complex, so it makes sense for a subcommittee to work on them in greater detail and then present findings and recommendations to the full board. But, Karem doesn’t see things that way.
Maybe this irregularly reconstituted board is out to eliminate anything creative – regardless of merit – that the ousted board did. Could it be we are returning to a former status quo when school insiders had a firm lock on the state board?
Another action taken by the irregularly reconstituted board was to set up a committee to oversee the process of finding a head hunter search firm to help select a new commissioner of education. I think most people would say that selecting an education commissioner – the CEO of education throughout Kentucky – is one of the most important functions of the state board. Using the logic from the dropping of the Finance Committee decision, shouldn’t activities regarding the commissioner selection process merit the attention of the full board, too?
The answer again is that overseeing the setup of the search firm contract is technical and detailed, and it would be hard for the full board to meet as frequently as needed to do this justice. So, a subcommittee works for this, just as it would work better for the financial needs of the commonwealth.
But, if a subcommittee is just fine to handle some major decisions regarding the selection of a new commissioner, how come the also troubled finance area doesn’t merit a committee, too?
Don’t forget, under former status quo state boards, no one paid much attention to the financial reporting mess until the ousted board showed up. A legislative research commission report pointing to financial reporting problems that I mentioned in my previous blog came out way back in 2006, but nothing much ever got done about it in the old, status quo state boards of the time. In fact, nothing much got done until the recently ousted board took over. That was starting to change, but now it seems like the old, status quo mentality is descending on the state board, again. Does this mean that “Whole Board” treatment will actually be code words for no treatment? Sadly for our kids, the ultimate answer might be “Yes.”