Saturday, December 8, 2018

KY: Setting More Bad Goals for 2019

Oh, Kentucky. A state slowly being beaten down by the usual gang of mediocre businessmen masquerading as public servants.

Big data, charter entrepreneurs, voucher fans, pension vultures, testocrats-- they've all taken a shot at grabbing tax dollars from Kentucky taxpayers with a great deal of patience and varying degrees of success, even if Kentucky's teachers did raise a fuss (prompting Governor Matt Bevin to demonstrate yet again what low regard he holds the profession in).

Now Kentucky's Department of Education has let everyone know what their priorities are for the coming year, and it is once again not good news for fans of actual public education.

There will be a push, of course, for charters. It's worth noting how the push will come, because it's a lesson in some of the nuances of the budgeting process. Kentucky has, as of last year, a charter law. What it doesn't have is a mechanism for funding a charter school, and so, no charter schools, yet.

Yeah, let's hit this kid with some more tough love

Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis to change that. Lewis is a former teacher by way of the Teach New Orleans, the TNTP-run sister program of Teach for America. In creating a funding stream for charters, he faces a challenge. It's not a budget year, so it would take a super-majority of legislators to pass such a thing. The last set of elections were a mixed bag-- a teacher ousted a legislator who backed a crappy teacher pension bill in the primaries, but in the general election, teachers were mostly close but no cigar. However, even in losing, teachers sent a clear signal that education is a hot issue in Kentucky. So the super-majority supporting a new revenue stream for charters may not be doable.

What may be doable, however, is the same old diverting of tax dollars trick beloved in the charter world, because that doesn't require any new money-- just the same old "we can take the money that used to run one system and use it to run multiple systems, easy peasy" baloney.

Meanwhile, Kentucky would also like to get on that stupid third grade reading retention bandwagon.

When it comes to retaining third grade students over reading skills, the research is pretty clear-- it's bad news. It can be even worse news if the policy is not simply to retain students who read poorly, but to retains students who do not pass the test. This leads like the stupidity we saw in Florida, where students who had clearly demonstrated their reading ability were still retained because they wouldn't take the test. What are the odds that Kentucky, land of Opt Out Equals Zero Score, would follow a similarly dumb policy.

Board of Education Chairman Hal Heiner has tried to frame this as a reading "guarantee," and said that, well, don't pay any attention to the retaining part, just figure that we won't have to retain very many. This assumes that teachers or students or both are simply holding back, and once properly threatened. Or as one retention policy advocate once put it, "Retention policies are badly needed tough love." This set of assumptions would be ridiculous and insulting if real, live eight year old human children weren't made to suffer because of them.

In keeping with the general ed reform policy of diminishing the democratic process, the department also plans to spend 2019 stripping elected school boards of some of their powers. Because elections are dumb. Hope that Kentuckians don't have too many reasons to regret the choices they made in the last elections.


  1. Kentucky .... beautiful state, but too many credulous folks once you've left Louisville. Happened to stumble once into the MegaComplex known as Southeast Christian Church (and also Matt Bevin's place of worship). The indoctrination runs deep. This church rakes in more than $1 million in tithes a week. Imagine what that money could do for the people of Kentucky: better schools, well-stocked libraries, etc. I wish Kentuckians would wake up and walk away from these institutions which are an assault on public education (and with it, an assault on democracy.)

  2. Horse racing and bourbon are the first things about Kentucky that come to mind, but coal mining and Ken Ham aren’t far behind. Science offers no encouraging news to either of these industries. Public schools teach science, public libraries contain scientific knowledge. Too much education upsets the apple cart.