Aaron Gillum

 

4 Reasons to care about Kentucky Governor’s race

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The Cincinnati Enquirer is running a story this weekend by the same title, however, it is misleading and shows how disconnected they continue to be with Northern Kentucky.

Their reasons: “Northern Kentucky needs to improve turnout”, “who will gain momentum for the 2016 Senate race”, “the White House effect”, and “tepid Republican support”.

I ask, what do any of those have to do with how voters should weigh their choices this November? The answer is a very distinct, “absolutely nothing.”

Instead, please allow me to offer four REAL reasons:

  • Pension Crisis

As of January 1, 2015, the Kentucky teacher retirement system faced more than $14 Billion in unfunded liabilities. This is in addition to the $17 Billion in unfunded pensions in the Kentucky Retirement System. No solution came out of the legislative session, and the can was kicked down the road yet again. This massively looming debt grows daily, is not being addressed and is not sustainable. Pensions continue to be offered to state employees as a benefit, so the burden grows through attrition.

All of this burden falls upon the Kentucky taxpayer. Our police, fire, teachers, and civil servants all stand to lose their retirement that they’ve worked for if something is not done.

  • Tax Deficit

The current Kentucky tax code is more than 60,000 pages.  The state, in 2014, gave out $90M more than it took in, and is on pace to fall more than $35M short in 2015.  This, is in addition to the pension deficit. The tax code in current form does not provide competitive opportunity for businesses to locate within the commonwealth.  Major players such as Toyota, Humana, and Omnicare have moved out of state for greener pastures.  All sides agree that comprehensive tax reform is needed, but the seated governor and legislature have ignored the issue, and again, passed the buck.

  • Health Care Reform

The creation of a state exchange, KYNECT, was initiated as part of the Affordable Care Act.  The exchange is heralded as one of the better state exchanges in design, and was created with $253.6M in grants, of which only $60M have been accounted for.  The state spent more than $11M in 2014 just promoting the exchange, who has 622 employees.  The cost to operate KYNECT is stated at $39M per year.  States are not required to operate their own exchange, and all services provided by the exchange can be received through the federal ACA online exchange.

Medicaid expansion in the state has increased the annual state cost of funding. The governor’s projections in 2013 were for 147,000 people to join the expanded program, at a cost of $33M.  More than 310,000 people joined, just the first year pushing the cost projections to $119M per year.  The healthcare marked is turning to increased costs upon the insured, because of the reduced reimbursement rates of Medicaid, driving the expense of healthcare up, to compensate.  The cycle is not sustainable, and the state currently has no answers to fund the expansion.

  • Labor Law

Right to work legislation is at Kentucky’s doorstep.  The concept with Right-To-Work is that by law, no one can be forced to enter into an organized labor contract / agreement.  This does not ban unions, but does make participation within them elective.  This issue is very divisive, as the organized labor contingent believes it jeopardizes their funding and ability to operate, and those opposed to forced participation believe the increased dollars going to worker pockets instead of union dues are a job creation incentive.  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee all have passed right to work legislation, and are all in direct competition for business growth and expansion with Kentucky.

All four of these topics have major implications on the future ability of our state government to function. In Northern Kentucky we have a looming need for an I-75 bridge solution, and our sprawling growth has overburdened many state highways and systems.

Which candidate offers the best skill set, and approach to resolving these major issues facing our state?

Here are your choices:

Do your homework Kentucky, and VOTE!

November 3, 2015.


Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate James Comer speechless in response to bad vote

Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate James Comer speaking to WAVE 3 News in Louisville, Ky.

Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate James Comer speaking to WAVE 3 News in Louisville, Ky.

LOUISVILLE, KY — Last week, political action group super PAC “Citizens for a Sound Government” began running television ads attacking Kentucky gubernatorial front-runners James Comer and Matt Bevin.

While the attacks on Bevin were copycats to the overwhelmingly debunked ads used by the McConnell campaign in last years’ Kentucky senate primary, the attacks on Comer have brought information into the spotlight that many voters may not previously have seen.

The attacks allege that Comer, in his prior capacity as a legislator, voted to approve an increase to state pension payouts, benefiting him by nearly tripling his pension with his new role as the Agricultural Commissioner, and further benefiting him should he be elected governor.

Kentucky legislators fund their own pension plan, exclusively for the legislation.  State officers, like the AG Commissioner, receive pension from the state retirement system (KERS).  The bill Comer voted to pass in the House, enacted a reciprocity provision, that allowed anyone serving as a legislator to calculate their legislative pensions based upon their best years in ANY state capacity.  The legislative positions are a part time position, and the pensions are funded by part-time employees, but the bill allowed anyone climbing the ladder within the state, to be reimbursed from this pension plan as a full-time employee, at potentially much higher rates of return from increased salaries.

By support of HB 299 in 2005, known as “The Greed Bill”, Comer’s legislator pension increased from $13,100 a year, to $34,369 per year, after moving to his new office.  Legislator pensions  are calculated based upon years of service, a service credit rate, and the average of the three highest years of salary.   Additionally, Comer has started a new KERS pension in his new role, meaning he will draw a second pension in addition to his legislator pension, once retired.

At the Gubernatorial debate in Louisville, Commissioner Comer was left searching for words, in response to his vote for “The Greed Bill”.

Comer has since gone on record stating he would opt out of his state pension, if elected Governor , but made no mention of reforming this practice to protect the pool of state employee pensions.

The second attack from the ads allege that Comer was paid $87,429 in subsidies (from 1995 – 2012), and further explains that Comer’s father has received $128,000 in the same subsidies since 1995.

Comer, while campaigning, has been vocal of his opposition to the subsidies and about the need for their reduction.

In quick response, Comer stated “He’s (Heiner) gotten more farm subsidies per acre than I have, significantly more.”

Heiner has repeatedly denied that his campaign has any involvement with the negative attacks on Bevin and Comer.


Fourth District Dinner unites Kentucky Republicans

HEBRON, Ky. — A crowd of more than 250 rose to their feet in Northern Kentucky on Saturday night, to applaud and give thanks to Congressman Thomas Massie – not once, but twice.

Offering insight into his most recent transgressions at the capitol, Massie cautioned not to get caught “Looking the other way” with congressional business as Benjamin Netanyahu will be in town to address the session.  Massie offered that these media marquee events were often used as distractions, where covertly, unpopular legislation could be snuck through the system without much attention.

Massie said that he found sitting on the aisle in congress, was the best way to bridge the gap and learn what opinions were being discussed that might be contrary to your own.  Working with Jared Polis (D – CO) as a co-sponsor of pro-hemp legislation, Massie cited as an example of those who were often polar opposites, coming together for the greater good.

Massie’s always pleasant candor, was well received.  It served as a reminder of the unity and common ideals of Northern Kentucky, and capped off an evening where each of the four Republican gubernatorial candidates, where the party is very much divided on support,  were given an opportunity to speak.

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Hal Heiner drew the first slot, and used his time to champion the recent success of the party, the leadership of Senator Paul, and leadership of Congressman Massie.  Heiner encouraged us to look around, and see that Indiana, Tennessee, and Illinois have all installed conservative businessmen, not politicians, as Governors, and to look at the success that is following.  “Companies love Kentucky,” quipped Heiner “but they can’t stand Frankfort.”  Heiner joked that his daughter had to go to Texas to find opportunity after college, and had married a Texan and started a family; in Texas, while referencing the impact on Northern Kentucky of Toyota’s recent decision to relocate there.  Heiner did not speak of running mate, K.C. Crosbie.

Mat Bevin spoke second.  After introducing two of his daughters, Olivia and Sophia, Bevin was quick to get into detail about the many problems plaguing Frankfort.  Bevin and running mate Jenean Hampton had unveiled their ‘Blueprint for a Better Kentucky‘ earlier in the week.  Bevin referenced the blueprint frequently, and cited his hands on experience as pension manager of more than $5 Billion in assets with a company “I started in my basement” as invaluable to addressing the state employee’s pension crisis.

“There are ten reasons I’m in this race,” Bevin offered, “two of them are here with me tonight.  We cannot continue to kick the can down the road.”  Matt and his wife have 9 children, which he joked isn’t a lot by Northern Kentucky standards.  Addressing a commonly voiced opinion that he was very late to enter the race, Bevin argued, “What could be more American than challenging at the last minute?” Bevin shared that he and Hampton are both active duty military veterans.

Current Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and former longtime state representative Jamie Comer, spoke third.  Referencing his background as a large farm owner, and experience in banking, Comer also spoke of the growth of business in our surrounding states; attributing it to Republican leadership. Comer focused on his tenure as Commissioner and the downsizing of the department on his watch, vowing to bring that mindset forward. “State government can be more efficient.”  Comer spoke that in his opinion, we need to treat our high Medicaid enrollment as a poverty problem, to best be solved by creating jobs.  Running mate Senator Chris McDaniel, would be charged with financial oversight in the Comer administration.

Judge Will T. Scott was the final candidate to address the room.  Scott and running mate Rodney Coffey are leaving their recently elected posts to seek the governor’s office.  Scott spoke of Kentucky’s most pressing issues as pension funding, and addressing issues with the penal system and department of corrections.  Scott believes that a restructuring of the penal code, as well as a new minimum security prison would go far to correct the drug related crimes in the state.  Citing first hand experience in his family with drug abuse, relapse and successful recovery, Scott stated that he would not “have another death on his hands” from the state’s growing drug problem.

The Kentucky Republican gubernatorial primary election  will be held on May 19, 2015.

More can be learned about the candidates via their campaign websites:

Hal Heiner – HalHeiner.com

Matt Bevin – MattBevin.com

Jamie Comer – JamesComer.com

Will T. Scott – WillTScott.com


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Is shutdown of the Kentucky state health exchange feasible?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Introducing his Blueprint for a Better Kentucky on Monday, gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin identified healthcare as one of his focus areas for improvement.

As Governor, I would close the KYNECT state exchange and facilitate the transition of enrollees into the federal healthcare exchange. Closing KYNECT would begin to free Kentucky from this financially ill-advised program and leave Obamacare management in the hands of the federal government.

While the plan as stated sounds simple enough, some may wonder whether a state can legally close their healthcare exchange, and return enrollment to federal responsibility? What impact would it have on those who have enrolled? What would such a transition cost? Would any federal money used to develop the exchange need to be returned?

Can a governor close the exchange?

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) issued Executive Order 587, which established the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange on July 17, 2012. This was renamed KYNECT in May 2013. The state legislature did not pass a bill concerning the creation of the exchange. The constitutionality of the executive order was challenged in Kentucky Court, in David Adams, et al. v. Commonwealth of Kentucky and opinions rendered upheld the authority of the governor to create the exchange. The decision cited that the General Assembly deferred this power to the Governor in absence of affirmative legislation, and that the governor was not violating the state constitution’s separation of powers provisions, as he was taking action upon a federal mandate.

The ruling upholding the executive power to create the exchange can still be overruled in Kentucky Supreme Court. If the Kentucky Supreme Court finds that Beshear’s actions were an unconstitutional exercise of his executive authority, then the state exchange could only be saved with legislative action. If the court finds the powers were appropriately wielded, it also opens the door to utilization of an executive order to remove the exchange. By precedent, the governor would still be adhering to the federal mandate in utilizing the federal exchange, as 37 states presently operate.

Has a state exchange ever been closed?

With healthcare exchanges being relatively new, a state that has developed an exchange diverting control to the federal exchange has only happened once; with Oregon. Thirty-six of our 50 states opted not to set up exchanges at all, and have been completely dependent on the federal exchange from the program’s onset.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, signed SB 99 into law on June 17, 2011. Unlike Kentucky’s exchange, the Oregon exchange WAS created within the state legislature.

The decision to move Oregon from a state exchange to the federal exchange, was rendered by the appointed board that managed Cover Oregon. The state has acted upon this decision sending Oregon healthcare through the federal healthcare.gov website. Legislation soon followed in the form of SB1, which recently passed the senate, and  and is now being considered in the house.

What impact does it have on those who used the state exchange to enroll?

The Cover Oregon exchange website now defers new enrollment with a link to the federal healthcare.gov exchange. Those who obtained their insurance through Cover Oregon for FY2014, were required to re-enroll for FY2015 via the federal exchange.

What will transitioning from a state exchange to a federal exchange cost?

Oregon believes the switch to use of the federal exchange will cost $5 Million.

The portion of the exchange used to enroll people in the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan will be sent to the Oregon Health Authority. The cost is estimated at $35 million to complete. Officials estimate that 90 percent of that cost will come from federal sources, with the remaining 10 percent ($3.5M) from the state’s general fund.

State health exchanges are developed in strict adherence to federal meaningful use guidelines. This means the data gathered and formatted by the exchanges is designed to be universal and portable.

The exchanges were built with federal grants… does the state have to return such grant money?

A total of $253.6 Million dollars in grants was received for development of KYNECT; Oregon’s failed “Cover Oregon” exchange received $303 Million.

In an interview with KATU news correspondent Chelsea Kopta, Oregon CIO Alex Pettit stated that Oregon would not be returning any of the grant money used to establish the Cover Oregon exchange.

Where does the money come from to cover the expense of the switch?

The reported cost to develop KYNECT was $60 Million, leaving $193.6 Million in grants received for the development, unaccounted for in the process.

Kentucky received more than $11 Million in 2014 grants just to promote KYNECT with 622 employees.  It is unclear what amount of these funds have been spent.

Oregon CIO Alex Pettit confirmed that of their developmental grant funds, $57 Million remains unspent. (and would not be returned)

Why opt out of the state exchange program?

The estimated annual operation costs for KYNECT is a $39 Million burden on the Kentucky taxpayer. With no loss of service or functionality, utilizing the federal exchange will not only cost the state nothing, but will save them the annual administrative costs that are associated with the duplicitous service already being offered by the Federal Government.

Heading into the 2016 election cycle, the Obamacare model faces an uncertain future nationally, and likely will mean major changes to the exchanges. Utilizing the Federal exchange shifts any associated burden from the State to the Federal government.

Healthcare matters are sure to be a prominent discussion point in the Kentucky Republican primary gubernatorial election. In addition to the removal of Kentucky’s healthcare exchange, Bevin has also announced plans to modify the existing Certificate of Need Program, and Scope of Practice laws, while vowing to do everything within his power to roll back Beshear’s unsustainable expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky.


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Gubernatorial Candidate Matt Bevin unveils plan for Kentucky

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Matt Bevin speaking at a press conference in Shelbyville, KY on Monday, February, 23, 2015.

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Matt Bevin speaking at a press conference in Shelbyville, KY on Monday, February, 23, 2015.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With the unveiling of their seven point “Blueprint for a Better Kentucky“, Gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin, and running mate Jenean Hampton formally kicked off their campaign for Frankfort’s top offices.

Speaking in Shelbyville, Florence, and Bowling Green today, Bevin aims to personally share the Blueprint across the commonwealth.

In the plan introduction, Bevin and Hampton, both from humble backgrounds jointly state:

We believe in the American Dream because we have both been blessed to live the American Dream. A dream built on a foundation of Christian principles, love of liberty, self-reliance and a strong work ethic. We want a Kentucky where our young people stay to raise their families because jobs are plentiful and quality of life is high. We want to ensure that the very same opportunity exists for the generations of Kentuckians yet to come.

Bevin describes the plan as a non-partisan pursuit of molding Kentucky to grow the economy, attract jobs, and reap the social and economic benefits of a renewed focus on making the state competitive.

The plan’s slogan states simply, “It’s all about the jobs.”

Here in Kentucky, we have an abundance of geographic, topographic, demographic and seasonal advantages that no other state can offer. Jenean and I are living proof of the powerful attraction of our beautiful state. It is time that we pick ourselves up, cast aside the economic chains that we have entangled ourselves with and become a magnet for businesses and families across this nation. It is time for Kentucky to shine like a beacon from sea to shining sea.

The Blueprint for a Better Kentucky, focuses on 7 key pillars for the state.  It calls for enacting “Right To Work” legislation, a modernization and simplification of the state tax code, an outside audit and private 401k approach to pension reform, education reform with a focus on parental empowerment, a repeal of Medicaid expansion, and challenging federal overreach into state matters.

In addition to releasing their plan, the Bevin-Hampton campaign challenged all candidates on either side of the aisle in the Governor’s race to release their plans to address the serious problems facing Kentucky.

The plan can be viewed here in its entirety.

You can follow Matt Bevin at the following:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


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Tolls – More taxes without results

Brent Spence Bridge

Brent Spence Bridge. Photo: EMILY MAXWELL | WCPO

Much discussion, even nationally, is occurring with regards to correcting congestion problems with the I-75 / I-71 corridor as it crosses the Ohio River between Kentucky and Ohio.  The convergence of major highway arteries creates substantial traffic, and places great burden upon an aging bridge.  There are arguments from all directions presently; replace the bridge, build an adjacent bridge, build a bridge miles away and split the interstates.  Equally heated are the arguments on how to fund any such solution, creating a very “toll vs no toll” argument in the region.  The only agreement between the majority groups is that something needs to be done.

How Highways are Funded

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (National Interstate and Defense Highways Act) into law.  A massive public works undertaking, approximately $25 Billion (in 1956 dollars folks) was allocated to build more than 40,000 miles of road.  While bolstering infrastructure for the nation, the military function of the highway system was to provide rapid access to our military bases for defense.

So who paid for it?

The agreement was funded by a federal highway trust fund.  The states were expected to cover 10 percent of the costs, and the highway trust fund would take care of 90 percent.  This fund was populated by a tax imposed upon fuel, and per the 1956 act, the federal fuel tax was implicitly for the maintenance and construction of interstate highways.  Through the 1950s, the tax reached a height of 4 cents per gallon, but remained exclusively for interstate highway construction and maintenance.

Fast forward a few years.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan approves the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.  This increased the fuel tax, starting in 1983 to 9 cents per gallon, claiming 1 cent per gallon to fund public transit.  This was the first “dip into the pot”.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush changed it up, by signing the Omnibus Act into law.  This raised the tax to 14 cents per gallon, with 2.5 cents of the increase directed to the highway fund, and 2.5 cents of the increase going to reduce the federal deficit.  This was the second venture into the highway trust tax revenue that was not being used to build and improve interstates.

President William Jefferson Clinton in 1993, bumped the tax to 18.4 cents with a revised Omnibus Act, with the additional 4.4 cents ALL going to deficit reduction.

Let’s recap.

1956   – 4 cents per gallon  – 100% highway funding

1982   – 9 cents per gallon  – 89% highway funding

1990 – 14 cents per gallon  – 75% highway funding

1993 – 18.4 cents per gallon – 43% highway funding

The system is upside down, in a big way.

In 1997, Clinton signed a taxpayer relief act, not reducing the tax, but redirecting the 4.4 cents per gallon allocated in 1993 for deficit reduction, back to the highway fund, which returned it to 81 percent of the taxes being collected, being used for highway funding exclusively.

Getting into the new millennium, it becomes extremely difficult to follow the money trail. Transportation bill after transportation bill was passed, and in each bill, are buried thousands of earmarks. Sometimes these earmarks are for highway projects. Sometimes they are completely unrelated.

In a 2007 interview, then Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, in an interview stated the following:

Well, an earmark is a project that’s designated by a member of Congress specifically to a project generally in his or her district or state. And the level of earmarking has increased substantially over the last couple of decades in terms of the highway bill. The last highway bill that was passed, in the summer of 2005, contained over 6,000 of those marks, those specially designated projects. And the cost of those projects just in that bill alone was $24 billion, almost a tenth of the bill….There are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure.

The use of earmarks not only legally misappropriates funds, it’s a sort of bribe; a backhanded way to “sneak” tax dollars into other arenas without them receiving an appropriate open vote, or review.

If a transportation bill is needing support, allowing earmarks means the vote is effectively for sale.  The voting representative from each state tags on their own pet projects, or appeases lobbyists’ funding by ensuring their interests have found a government home.  If you want your pet project in the vote, you must likewise endorse the pet projects of others, to get the funding appropriated.  Back room deals are made, and the end result is a transportation bill that funds lots of things; but not necessarily our transportation needs.

Some lawmakers realizing the system was effectively broken, have submitted legislation over the years, to allow states to opt out of contributing to the federal system, and instead to levy the taxes and handle highway functions at the state level.  The logic was that the state would maintain the taxation, but be able to appropriate 100 percent of the funds to their highway needs (or at least to pet projects in their own state, as the case likely would be).

Representative James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Representative Scott Garrett (R-New Jersey) tried to implement this idea in 2012, which received much support, but ultimately went nowhere.

These earmarks and reallocations add up to some serious deficits in the transportation fund.

In 2008, the fund was deficient nearly $8 billion, and covered by dollars from “general revenue”.  This shortage was explained as an issue with “lower consumption” and “higher prices” by Washington.

This did not improve in 2009, or 2010, where an addition $7 billion was required to compensate, and another $19.5 billion, respectively.

Congressional authorization was given from 2008 – 2010 to authorize transfer of $35 Billion to prop up the fund.

Where is the resolve?

In 2007, and for certain much earlier, it was blatantly apparent that the highway system was underfunded, both by lack of appropriate revenue collection, and by the continual erosion of funding through earmarks.

Congress, and the Obama White House, which is fond of executive orders to push a political agenda and circumvent due process, have taken no corrective action.

Earmarks continue.  The deficit in funding continues.  None of the career politicians in congress are willing to promote the idea of appropriate taxation on fuel, and an end to undermining the taxation system with earmarks, for fear of the unpopularity of a tax increase.

tollbooth

Why aren’t tolls a solution?

Tax on gasoline is a highway usage tax.  People without cars don’t buy gas.  You are taxing the consumer that is using the resource, directly.  A toll is a secondary tax on those already paying for the service.

The highway trust fund was created to balance the funding of interstate construction and improvement, with a 90 percent federal and 10 percent state liability.  This tax is collected at the pump.  This tax is appropriated by the lawmakers.  This is the law.

Regardless, congress does not observe this law.  Earmarks fund pet projects.  Current estimates are that as much as 70 percent of the highway fund taxes are appropriated to projects that neither fund construction nor improvement of roadways.

If we are not spending the funds we collect for highway construction and improvement on their intended purpose, we have a lawmaking problem, not a budget problem.  It is not the responsibility of the taxpayer to supplement the misuse of appropriated funds.

Collecting tolls on a roadway imposes a secondary tax on usage.  

Adding a second bucket of funds from tolls, creates a new pool of funds to find creative ways to appropriate.  Do you trust that these funds will be used correctly given the current state of the highway fund allocation?

In Kentucky or Ohio, if you’re filling up a normal car once a week, you’re paying about $360 a year in fuel taxes.  (15 gallons, 52 weeks, 46 cents a gallon)

If a $4 a day toll is implemented to cross a bridge, those driving the bridge, will pay an average of  $1000 per year, EXTRA, to drive the bridge. ($20 a week, 50 weeks a year).

Proposed tolls triple the cost on the taxpayer, with no guarantee that the funding is adequate, or will be appropriately utilized.

A Solution?

Until the highway funds collected are returned to their intended purpose, we have no way of knowing if we are taxing appropriately for their use.

The first step is to stop the earmarks and return to the 90 percent / 10 percent appropriation balance.

The second step is to evaluate the current fuel tax rates and compare with the burden of construction and maintenance.

Until your federal representation is honest with the money being collected for infrastructure, there can be no immediate solution that doesn’t involve further burden upon the taxpayer.


If you’re willing to contribute to the conversation, are you willing to hold your representation accountable?

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Common Core another measure in the surrender of Kentucky education

Photo: Education News

Photo: Education News

In 1990, the Kentucky General Assembly, as a part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), adopted the policy known as Site Based Decision Making (SBDM) for all Kentucky schools.

The intention of SBDM was to empower each school individually, giving further localized authority for decisions on school operational procedures, and curriculum to a body within each individual school. The body is composed of the principal, teachers (who report to the principal), parents, and a minority parent (if one is available and willing).

Unlike the county school district school board members, these positions are not elected in an at-large election. The principal of each school is responsible for oversight; a distraction from their administrative role of the facility.  Teachers must submit their names for consideration, and are elected by teachers within the school.  There is no limitation of residence for the teachers and their votes; they do not have to live within the district to select the teacher representatives.  Parental members submit their names for consideration to the school PTA, and are elected by parents with a child enrolled in the school.

The SBDM council makeup is:  the principal, three teachers, and two parents as a voting body.  In the event a school has a minority population exceeding a defined threshold, a minority parent and minority teacher must be elected as well, so long as they are willing and available.

All responsibilities of the SBDM councils were previously on the shoulders of the generally elected school board members, serving four-year terms.  For the taxpayer, school decisions were removed from the hands of a taxpayer elected representative, and placed to the trust of staff elected in a closed session election, not necessarily consisting of voters from the school district.  It is also noteworthy that parents are immediately the voting minority in the council; teachers aren’t apt to vote against their boss.

In November 2014, doing an in depth analysis of each of the 24 schools in Boone County, Kentucky, (the third largest school district in the state), I discovered that 22 were not adhering to very clearly stated guidelines defined in the KRS.  The violations all concerned appropriate reporting measures for meeting minutes, setting reasonable meeting times (these are open meetings) and reasonable meeting facilities.  I found only two of the schools were reporting their minutes promptly, and after every meeting, as well as hosting their meetings after 5 p.m. in a venue that appropriately could facilitate parental attendance.

This was reported to the director of the state office of education accountability, who escalated the complaint to state school oversight staff.  The only reply received was an assurance that the state had  “recommended that the district incorporates best practices and use various ways to disseminate information.”

Traces of outdated data still being shared by several of the schools show these practices span many years.  In Boone County, our school leadership have been in control for more than a decade, with the most senior members approaching 20 years in control. Not coincidentally, the schools with the most glaring violations were generally the lowest performing schools in the district.  While Boone County will promptly tout their composite school test score ranking as generally among the best in the state, there are several schools in the county consistently scoring in the 30th-40th percentile.

The state, and local board are complacent that these SBDM meetings are not being properly communicated to parents, not facilitating attendance of parents, and not reporting their content to parents. One might question why have the meetings at all, if the decisions being made are subject to no review or scrutiny.  It’s equally apparent that the policies implemented at the lower performing schools are not having appropriate corrective impact, however, no corrective action has been documented or made public by the school district.

Once one is familiar with these practices on the local level, it should come as no surprise that Kentucky stood first in line for the adoption of the nationalized Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

common-core

AP Photo

 

What is Common Core?

In 2009, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1.  The education bill mandated new academic standards, with a focus on “critical knowledge, skills and capacities needed for success in the global economy.”  It was by no coincidence that this legislation corresponded directly with federal initiatives of the same literature, offering dollars to any state that adopted the approved curriculum, including “Race to the Top” federal dollars, which were derived from federal stimulus package that was never passed by congress.

The short version of Kentucky adopting CCSS is this:  Dr. Terry Holliday in 2008 was the president elect of the CCSSO, and aware of the actions taking place that would eventually become the Common Core Standards.  Senate Bill 1, was designed to match the proposed CCSS.  Dr. Holiday hand picked educational representation to speak on behalf of the standards being superior to the abysmal KERA standards (in place at the time), and sell the deal as a major improvement.  The standards were promptly adopted, resulting in the forfeiture of the ability of state or local elected officials to offer input or guidance on the materials, methods, topics, and subjects the school systems utilize to educate our students.

It would, on the surface, appear this is contrary to SBDM, where placing localized control of education was the goal.  Ultimately, they are more similar, by virtue that through legislation,  all decision making and leverage on curriculum to a private, copyrighted educational standards were removed from state and local control completely, surrendered to a private third party, not chosen in a general election.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Your local teacher, principal, school board, ALL the way up to the state level, have no real voice in how, why, and what your children are being taught.  Many educators towing the union line would, (and have) argued the contrary, but undeniably, the standards are not open for discussion.  In a curriculum that values the method above all results, there is only so much leeway for how something can be taught.  A requirement for collecting the “federal rewards” is submitting the standardized test result data.  The ultimate goal is to utilize the data to profile children and their learning capacity from an early age, creating an adaptive educational track for each type of student to prepare them for further education or an occupation best suited for them (according to the test scores).

The standards are copyrighted and wholly privately owned.  The corresponding educational materials are only available from a limited selection of sources, effectively creating a monopoly on the education industry for the selected suppliers.  Without free market competition, the supplier and their constituents can begin to have an influence upon the material, up to the point of effectively re-writing history and inserting influential literature as they might be inclined.  You can see where this might be a problem.

The standards were commissioned, and are overseen by The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  While these sound like formal government organizations, these are privately funded “non-profit” entities.  Former Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit while serving as Executive Director of the CCSSO in 2008, personally lobbied Bill and Melinda Gates for the funding to start the Common Core initiative, receiving several million dollars from their foundation.  Current Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holiday, has long served as president of the CCSSO.

Common Core is private funds, supporting private organizations that profit substantially from the monopoly of educational and testing materials, utilizing state appointed officials, to implement their idea of an educational system, and reward their adoption with additional taxpayer funds for the state.  The “reward” federal funding does not cover the additional cost of materials, resources, or testing above the prior state standards; the state taxpayers are left to cover the additional expense.

“Kentucky students are not headed for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), but they are headed for careers which pay a ‘living wage’.  They are not headed for an elitist university degree.”

— Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky State Education Commissioner, President CCSSO,  March 13, 2014

Dr. Terry Holliday believes in a Kentucky where your children should be conditioned to pursue a living wage, not pursue their interests or passion.  The educational system he has overseen, serves the interests of a conglomerate of private organizations who share in this opinion.  As their president, while serving as Education Commissioner, he has ensured that this approach is being implemented in our schools.

Massive Opposition to Common Core in Kentucky

State Senator John Schickel (R-Union) and Representative Tom Kerr (R-Taylor Mill) both filed bills during the 2014 state legislative session to repeal common core and return education decision-making back to the state.  Senator Schickel’s bill, ultimately received a hearing in Frankfort.  The Common Core opposition enlisted the voluntary help of Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor at the University of Arkansas, and Dr. James Millgram, professor at Stanford University, whom were both on the approval committee for CCSS and refused to approve the standards.

“They stress writing more than reading, which is the opposite of what we know…reading is the basis for good writing. All good writers have been good readers, and unless our schools everywhere do that at all levels of proficiency, we will not have high-leveled graduates coming out of our high schools.”

— Dr. Sandra Stosky, Professor, University of Arkansas, March 13, 2014 – Kentucky Legislative Session Common Core Hearing

Another bill has been filed this year, in the Kentucky House of Representatives, effectively echoing the logic of the past two attempts to repeal the educational standards.  Kentucky HB33 calls for new standards for the state of Kentucky.

Common Core was a central focus of the 2014 election cycle, and remains a central topic of the 2016 Presidential race.

Both the Republican National and Kentucky State Republican caucus, have passed anti-common core resolutions.  Sponsoring this bill currently, are Tom Kerr (R-Taylor Mill), Lynn Bechler (R-Marion), Regina Bunch (R-Williamsburg), Kenny Imes (R-Murray), Tim Moore (R-Elizabethtown), Sal Santoro (R-Florence), and Diane St Onge (R-Lakeside Park).  I have also been informed additional leadership has signed on, but that information will not be public until the session opens next week.

With the party referendum dictating very clearly that common core is not in the interest of the commonwealth, the voters and taxpayers are certainly entitled to be upset if their elected representation have not signed on to fully support this initiative.