Kentucky Education: Race to the Bottom

Posted by on November 15, 2014
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In 2010, StudentsFirst was founded to monitor state education reform. It publishes an annual report card focusing on state education policies, teacher quality, empowering parents and financial efficiency. Each state is assigned a GPA rating as well as a letter grade.

This might shock you, but StudentsFirst’s 2014 State Policy Report Card  was not kind to Kentucky. I did not see that coming. Check out these stats:

Kentucky GPA: 0.88

Kentucky Grade: D-

National Rank: 40th

Evaluating the Teaching Profession: D+ (GPA: 1.55 – 29th)

Empowering Parents: F (GPA: 0.00 – 45th)

Spend Wisely & Govern Well: D (GPA: 0.89 – 46th)

Here’s how our two northern neighbors scored:

Ohio GPA: 1.92

Ohio Grade: C-

National Rank: 10th

Evaluating the Teaching Profession: D- (GPA: 1.59 – 28th)

Empowering Parents: C (GPA: 2.18 – 2nd)

Spend Wisely & Govern Well: C (GPA: 2.22 – 9th)

Indiana GPA: 2.67

Indiana Grade: C+

National Rank: 3rd

Evaluating the Teaching Profession: B- (GPA: 2.95 – 6th)

Empowering Parents: C+ (GPA: 2.41 – 3rd)

Spend Wisely & Govern Well: C (GPA: 2.44 – 3rd)

I also decided to check on the 2014 ACT Scores. Kentucky’s average composite score was 19.9. Kentucky is nationally ranked 44th. The national average is 21.0. There are 12 states that require 100 percent of students to take the ACT test. Of those 12 states, Kentucky was ranked 8th. Over the past 5-years, Kentucky has scored between 19.4 and 19.9.

Ohio’s ACT Score was 22.0 (72 percent of students tested) and Indiana scored at 21.9 (40 percent of students tested).

ACT also calculates the Percent of Students Ready for College-Level Coursework. Kentucky’s graduates who passed all four sections (English, Math, Reading & Science) scored 19 percent while Ohio scored 32 percent. Indiana also scored 32 percent. The national average score was 26 percent. Think about that for a moment. 81 out of 100 Kentucky high school graduates are not prepared for college courses. Did you know that? Do you think ACT is lying?

According to the National Education Association and the 2012 U.S. Census of Governments, Kentucky will spend $7.6 billion on education for approximately 660,000 students or $11,515 per student. Indiana will spend $11.0 billion for approximately 1 million students or $11,000 per student. Ohio will spend $22.5 billion for approximately 1.9 million students or $11,842. Think of these numbers the next time you hear Kentucky education bureaucrats whine for more money. It’s time for results to matter.

Is it any surprise that Kentucky’s unemployment rate for September 2014 was 6.7 percent (ranked 40th in the nation) compared to Ohio’s (5.6 percent) and Indiana’s (5.7 percent)? The national unemployment rate is 5.8 percent. Would you locate or keep your business in Kentucky with this quality of workforce and government waste?

This past week, just for fun, I reviewed Kentucky’s 69 pre-filed bills for the 2015 General Assembly. I was hoping to find numerous legislators who are attacking Kentucky’s education Race to the Bottom nightmare. There are 8 pre-filed bills concerning education. Seven address interscholastic extracurricular activity, unfunded mandates, dual credit courses, persons authorized to remove students from school, extension of special education terms, waivers or modifications of assessments for schools in innovation plans and redefining career-ready students who perform well on Arm Services test and enroll in the military.

There is only one bill that sort of addresses the quality of education issue.

BR 97 submitted by Representative Thomas Kerr (R).

Prohibit the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education from implementing the English language arts and mathematics academic content standards developed by the Common Core Standards Initiative and the science academic content standards developed by the Next Generation Science Standards Initiative; require the state board to recommend new content standards to school districts and schools after consultation with the Council on Postsecondary Education; require public involvement in standards development; You can read the full bill here.

This bill eliminates the federal Common Core program and returns control of education back to state and local control. While I’m all for this bill, it simply returns us to redeveloping another new education system controlled by politicians, bureaucrats and unions.

The only solution to Kentucky’s education problem is to return competition to education. Competition improves quality and reduces cost whenever it’s tried. Good schools will thrive and bad ones will die.

This may shock politicians, bureaucrats and Melissa Harris-Perry, but I believe parents love their children more than government does. I know parents who will research which select volleyball team is best for their child, but government believes parents are too stupid to select the best school for their children. We have parental-choice in volleyball and no parental choice in public education? Are politicians, bureaucrats and unions Gruberizing us? What the hell’s wrong with us?

Since unions control education and the Democratic Party and Democrats control the House, the above educational data is not going to change. Democrats control Kentucky’s House by a 54 to 46 margin. Kentucky’s children will just have to settle for winning the national Race to the Bottom.

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Tom Wurtz

President at Tom Wurtz Consulting
Tom Wurtz is the President of Tom Wurtz Consulting and former President & COO of a $70 million consulting firm in Cincinnati, OH. He’s a leadership & profit consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, columnist, founder of the Eagle Leadership Academy and author of three books. He has published over 900 business and libertarian/conservative political articles. In 2012, he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress in Kentucky’s 4th District. Tom resides in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky and has been married to his third-grade sweetheart for 38 years.

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