RANT: Legislative Update on Education in Kentucky – It’s Broken, Ohhh, I Know… Lets Throw More Money At It!

Only the government (and dishonest car mechanics) try to convince you that when you have something horribly broken, that you can fix it by throwing more money at it.
Case in point, I just got a copy of a press release from Kentucky Rep Mike Harmon’s Office (I’ll cut and paste it below for those of you who want to see it). It states that educating our children is a priority of the 2006 General Assembly. So far, sounds pretty good… then I read on.

I see statements like:

The most important part of educating our students is ensuring that we have qualified personnel in our classrooms…the General Assembly needed to do more to ensure they are adequately compensated.

I feel that maybe rather than increasing salaries, we should increase expectations. To heck with CATS testing… I am tired of school systems dedicated solely to teaching to a bogus exam. Why not try…. EUREKA!…. Teaching!?!?!

Why not actually teach every day of the school year? Why not teach age-appropriate material (rather than, for instance, having a 16-year old excellent reader spend two weeks in his English class reading Black Beauty aloud?) Call me crazy, but why not spend that time actually CHALLENGING the kids to learn something new?

If some of the kids need a book on the level of Black Beauty — give it to them (and SHAME on our school system for allowing that to happen in the first place) — but don’t make ALL the children read that same book. How HARD would it be to assign reading that is done outside of school and then break down the class into 2-3 level-appropriate groups to discuss their level appropriate books?

If I were the teacher in that class (and I have no professional teaching background at all) — I’d select three books of different levels with similar primary themes and assign them to my class based on reading level. They would read the books for HOMEWORK and then return to class to discuss the thematic similarities and differences as a whole class. Yeah, it may be a bit more difficult to teach that way than to have a whole class drone on reading aloud from a book targeted for 9-year-olds… but if a person doesn’t want to teach, why are they THERE?

How about HCR 214 which “directs a study on how to effectively provide assistance to schools not meeting established goals for student achievement to be completed by the Interim Join Committee on Education by December 1, 2006.” How about I just share the notebook my son is keeping for my edification right now? How about the course of his “coursework” over the last three weeks of school — after the tests, when the teachers quit teaching — be offered. Skip the expensive study — have your kids keep notes on what they are actually DOING in school. Drop by and have a surprise visit as a legislator. These are public schools — just GO THERE and see what’s happening.

Heck, if everyone did that enough, maybe the “free days” and the days at the park (my daughter had her THIRD full day at the park yesterday). The biggest concern we, apparently, should have about her education is whether or not she’s getting enough sunscreen to avoid burning.

HJR 145 – Develop a strategy to improve student’s understanding of the Constitution and the democratic process. Yeah, let’s do that. Maybe these kids will get angry enough that they will actually go out and vote. Maybe with another study, they will learn to be less apathetic about the system and they will believe that they actually matter as individuals in a democracy. Yup, explain to them how the Electoral College works, exactly, and hope they still have the urge to participate in that system. Give them the history about how presidents can, and have, lost the popular vote and still win the presidency. Yeah, that will give them a reason to want to participate. Great idea! And let’s throw some more money at the system and have some more studies on this one too! OR… maybe we could have a class on governmental change and how to create that on a grass roots level. Maybe our “civics” courses should show how things are and how, historically, change has occurred and how change can be implemented NOW. Hmmmm… but I’ll bet that wouldn’t be supported, would it?

HB 589 – Health Education – Dangers of UV rays. Yeah, this one needs to be given to the teachers that keep kids outside all day rather than teaching them at the end of the school year. Note previous mention of my Son’s sunburn one day last week from an “all day out” and the above mention of the third day in less than two weeks for my fair-skinned daughter. Yeah, and maybe this education needs to be given (as a requirement) to the teachers as well. Personally, I’ve taught my own children about this. Even at 8, Alex understands.

HB 197 – End of course examinations – Hmmmm. What a novel thought. Actual FINAL EXAMS that count. Wait… hold on… didn’t we already have these? I could swear that when I went to school we actually had final exams during the last week of school –and unlike TODAY’s “finals” — they were CUMULATIVE exams and the COUNTED (big time) on the final grade in every class. My son tells me that his “final exams” — the few that are being given, are over new material or, per the teachers “don’t count unless everyone does poorly” — yeah, that one left me scratching my head too. Final exams people. It’s pretty self-evident, IMHO.

HB 646 – Wellness and Physical Activity Program – Cost 2.5 million. This is going to be, what? Education on how we should get regular physical activity? Why not just HAVE regular physical activity as a part of the morning regimen at school? Why study it more? What are we going to do, use more VIDEOS to teach healthy lifestyles? And what does this actually DO? Look it up. It creates another commission. Lovely, and effective, I’m sure. Trickle down, theory, anyone? Yeah, me neither.

I’ll just leave my thoughts on the Teacher Pay Protection bill silent. I won’t mention my feelings about a society in a condition that this even occurs to legislators. For now, I’m pushing away from the computer and going on a hike. For now, I’m going to try to push the sorry state of Kentucky Education and the equally sorry situation wherein Kentucky Politicians continue to chase their tail (or get indicted) out of my mind. Right now, I’ll take a deep breath.

And can someone out there tell me, again, how it’s NOT all about the money? Anyone??

*Breathe in, Breathe out, Breathe in….*

Read the Full Press Release Here:

by State Representative Mike Harmon

Educating our children a priority of 2006 General Assembly

This session, we moved forward on a number of education issues that will help ensure that our children – no doubt Kentucky’s most precious natural resource – receive a quality education that prepares them to not only enter the job market, but to conquer it.

As I have said in previous columns, the most important part of educating our students is ensuring that we have qualified personnel in our classrooms and schools. However, although we have some of the finest educators in the nation, the General Assembly needed to do more to ensure they are adequately compensated. By providing salaries that are competitive with neighboring states, we can attract new faces to our classrooms while keeping the educators we have now.

This session we were able to include a much awaited teacher pay increase in the budget. Specifically, the budget includes a 2 percent pay raise for teachers in this upcoming fiscal year and an additional $3,000 increase in 2007-08. Classified employees will also receive a pay raise of 2 percent during 2006-2007 and 5 percent the next year.

The budget also includes full funding for the Read to Achieve Program, a program aimed at improving Kentucky’s literacy rates. A $50 million bond issue was included within the two-year spending plan to be used towards putting more computers in the hands of public school students. We also moved to reopen the KAPT (Kentucky Affordable Prepaid Tuition) program for new enrollment this fall. KAPT provides parents, family members and those interested in a child’s future to contribute to a college account at today’s rates, wagering on future tuition increases.

In addition to the budget, we also passed several other pieces of education and child-related legislation. Here are a few summaries of these bills:

HB 79 – Retirement Contributions for Certified Employees called to active duty. Requires a local board of education to grant a leave of absence to a certified employee who is a member of a state National Guard or a Reserve component ordered to active military duty by the President of the . The local boards of education are also required to pay the employee’s retirement contribution for the period of active military duty.

SB 51 – Teacher Pay Protection. This legislation will require any teacher or school employee who is assaulted while at work to continue receiving pay and benefits for up to 100 days after the assault. A doctor’s statement will be required as proof that the teacher or employee cannot return to work for them to receive paid leave offered under SB 51.

SB 130 – Student testing. Under the provisions of SB 130, the state would pay for and require all high school juniors to take the ACT, commonly required as a college entrance exam, under Senate Bill 130. The measure would allow sophomores, juniors and seniors to take the WorkKeys test, geared toward students who do not plan to attend college. Students’ testing fees would be paid by the Department of Education the first time they take the ACT and/or the WorkKeys tests.

HCR 214 – Student Achievement Goals. Directs a study on how to effectively provide assistance to schools not meeting established goals for student achievement to be completed by the Interim Joint Committee on Education by December 1, 2006.

HJR 145 – Civics Education. Requires the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Kentucky Board of Education, Education Professional Standards Board and other P-16 partners to develop strategies and a timeline for improving Kentucky students’ knowledge and understanding of the Constitution of the , and the democratic processes.

HB 341 – Education Technology. Directs the Department of Education to conduct a study to determine costs, benefits, feasibility, and implications of adoption of specifications for statewide education data designed to facilitate the exchange of information among different instructional and administrative software applications at the local, state, and federal levels.

HB 589 – Health Education. Encourages public schools to include age-appropriate education on the risks associated with exposure to ultraviolet rays within the existing health curriculum. House Bill 589 also requires the Kentucky Department of Education to provide instructional resources, including information from national standards and health organizations.

HB 197 – End-of-course examinations. Creates a pilot program in approximately ten schools throughout the state for standardized end-of-course examinations in Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry. The pilot program is set to take place during the 2007-2008 public school year.

HB 646 – Governor’s Wellness and Physical Activity Program. HB 646 establishes a health, wellness and fitness program for Kentucky that would promote a healthy lifestyle among our citizens. While the program is not specific to children, younger Kentuckians are a targeted audience as the number of Kentucky children diagnosed with diabetes and lifestyle-related health disorders has increased dramatically. The estimated cost to implement the initiative is $2.5 million.

While I intend to continue updating you on what we accomplished this session, I hope you will not hesitate to contact me if I can provide additional information on our work, to share your thoughts or regarding a state government matter. I can be reached at home or through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.