ADJOURNED

The special session on the sewer pension bill is adjourned — less than 24 hours after it started.

The Kentucky Democratic Party has this to say:

We did it. We defeated Gov. Bevin’s crass attempt at cutting pension benefits in a hastily called special session.

You called your legislators, you signed petitions, and you showed up with teachers, police, firefighters and others to put an end to Governor Bevin’s 2018 temper tantrum. You made your voice heard, and the special session was adjourned within 24 hours.

Now, we have to take this momentum and show up again in November 2019 and give Bevin another loss, this time at the ballot box.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

Same Old Secrets

The Kentucky Democratic Party responds to the Bevin Special Session on pensions:

It’s truly unbelievable the lengths Matt Bevin and the Republicans in the General Assembly will go to take away people’s hard-earned retirements.

 

Yesterday, at 3:45, Governor Matt Bevin called a special session for 8 p.m. that night. That isn’t even enough notice for all of the legislators to travel to Frankfort!

 

And then, after they gaveled in, the Republicans started the same behind closed doors, secret legislating that got them in trouble in the first place.

 

In the middle of all the chaos, a reporter observed Democratic house leaders asking Speaker Osborne to at least be included in the conversation about what was happening. In his reply, Osborne let his true feelings shine through: “Who says we’re having a conversation?”

 

That’s not right. But the Republican Party of Kentucky, led by Governor Bevin, isn’t interested in doing what’s right. They’re just interested in showing everyone they can do what they want, when they want.

 

Bevin and his buddies are going to waste at least $300,000 trying to cut police, firefighter, teacher and other state employee retirement benefits in a special session. It’s wasteful on so many levels.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

Another Bad Move from Bevin

Just days after the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the sewer-pension bill hastily passed in the waning hours of the 2018 legislative session violated procedure  and therefore could not be implemented, Governor Matt Bevin gave four hours advance notice of a special legislative session to deal with the pension issue.

The Lexington Herald-Leader has more:

In a surprise move Monday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called a special legislative session to deal with the state’s struggling pension systems. He made the announcement just before 4 p.m. Monday, saying the session would begin four hours later at 8 p.m.

“I am going to use the powers that have been granted to me to call the legislature into special session that will be effective tonight at eight o’clock,” Bevin said in a brief statement. “They will be coming in.”

Some speculate legislative leaders are poised to act on the now defunct sewer bill — this time, following proper procedure and giving the measure the required number of public hearings.

Bevin faces re-election in 2019 and is looking at an array of strong Democratic opponents. Moving on the pension bill is likely a way to bolster his support among his base.

Groups of teachers, who organized protests during pension debates earlier this year are already pledging to be on hand tonight when the legislature begins session.

Due to the incredibly short notice, it is likely lawmakers far from Frankfort will have difficulty making the opening gavel.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

Unanimous!

In a 7-0 decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court today struck down the “sewer pension bill” passed at the urging of embattled Governor Matt Bevin during the last legislative session.

The plan, which broke the promise made to current and retired teachers and other public employees, was found to be in violation of procedure demanding adequate public notice and a specific number of readings before a vote.

Adam Beam from the AP has more:

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a law that made changes to the state’s struggling public pension system eight months after it prompted thousands of teachers to protest, closing schools across the state.

In April, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed a law that moved all new teacher hires into a hybrid pension plan. The law also restricted how teachers used sick days to calculate their retirement benefits and changed how the state pays off its pension debt.

Facing a tight deadline, state lawmakers introduced and passed the bill in one day near the end of the 2018 legislative session. The bill moved so quickly that a copy was not available for the public to read until the day after lawmakers had voted on it.

Teachers were outraged, thousands marched on the Capitol and schools in more than 30 districts closed. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued, arguing the legislature violated the state Constitution by not voting on the proposal three times over three separate days. Bevin argued lawmakers did not need to do that because they had substituted the bill for an unrelated one that already had the required votes.

MORE>

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

KBE Rubber Stamps Lewis’ Failed Agenda

The Kentucky Board of Education recently unanimously backed an education policy agenda presented by current Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis. The agenda includes several ideas that have been met with mixed results at best in other states.

WDRB.com has more:

Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis and the Kentucky Board of Education will push for charter school funding, allowing superintendents to hire principals and giving school districts greater flexibility in hiring and firing teachers when the General Assembly convenes in January.

 

 

The items related to hiring principals and hiring/firing teachers cut into a bedrock element of the Kentucky Education Reform Act — Site-Based Decision-Making. These councils, made up of teachers and parents, exert school-level local control over budgeting and operations.

Meanwhile, the charter funding issue could lead to negative impacts for local school funding. A few examples from Tennessee, a state demographically similar to Kentucky, highlight the potential challenges.

First, despite years of charter schools, Tennessee isn’t really making earth-shaking gains in terms of student achievement:

Maybe we are closing achievement gaps? Again, no.

Back in 2013, Tennessee students eligible for free/reduced lunch had an average NAEP reading score of 256 and scored 20 points below the non-eligible students. Now, that average score is 252 (four points worse) and 19 points below. For 4th grade, there’s a similar story, with free/reduced lunch eligible students scoring 25 points below their non-eligible peers this year. Four years ago, it was 26 points.

We’re not moving the needle. Our most vulnerable students continue to be left behind. Meanwhile, we hear nice words from top policymakers and see little actual result in terms of tangible improved investment in schools or any meaningful upgrade in teacher pay. Our testing system has yet to be proven.

Then, there’s the financial impact to districts, as illustrated by a study of Metro Nashville Public Schools:

Even if the Nashville School board approves no new charter applications, more than 5,000 additional charter seats — costing $45 million a year — will come into existence by fall 2019 under current agreements. Yet charter operators still are seeking to create another 13 schools that would drain another $75 million a year from the school system.

To put it in perspective: This spring, MNPS is proposing to grow its annual operating budget from $790 million to $813 million — a $23 million increase. Not coincidentally, the budget plan contemplates about $23 million in additional cash outlays for charter schools.

In other words: Every dime of new revenue growth is going to charters, leaving little or nothing for traditional schools. The math is dizzying and troubling.

In other words, Kentucky’s Board of Education would do well to dig into the details and press pause on the Wayne Lewis agenda. Results in Tennessee and elsewhere indicate what he’s selling won’t buy much that matters.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

 

Flynn to Take Helm at KASA

Simpson County Superintendent of Schools Jim Flynn will takeover the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) next year after he ends his tenure in public education.

The Bowling Green Daily News reports:

Flynn, who is in his 16th year as superintendent, will become executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents on July 1. In his new role, Flynn will help shape education policy in the state and help support Kentucky’s 173 school districts and superintendents who lead them.

“I think it’s an exciting opportunity,” said Flynn, who also called his tenure at Simpson County Schools an honor and a privilege. “It’s going to be a change for me.”

 

Flynn previously served as the group’s president in 2013-14, and he was named Kentucky Superintendent of the Year for 2015.

A 1986 graduate of Western Kentucky University, Flynn holds a bachelor’s degree in science, with a major in biology and minor in chemistry. He earned a master’s degree in biology and secondary education from Texas A&M University, a Rank I in high school administration from WKU and a doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Kentucky University.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

 

Bevin Bashes Teachers

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is again bashing teachers and the largest association representing them, the KEA, instead of taking responsibility for his own failures as Governor.

Here’s more from the Courier-Journal:

Bevin said on WKCT Radio, of Bowling Green, that his budget proposals have fully funded Kentucky’s pension systems but that his efforts to save the pensions have been muddled by the teachers’ union.

And a response from KEA:

“It’s true that the last two state budgets approved by the legislature funded the pension system.  But remember, the Governor vetoed the 2018-2020 budget, which included the pension funding appropriations for which he’s now taking credit. The provisions of his ironically titled “Keeping the Promise” proposal from last fall and SB1(2018) speak for themselves; KEA didn’t create those documents, the Governor and legislators sympathetic to his cause did. Those proposals created the “discord” to which he refers.  All state employees, including educators, are also taxpayers.  Every participant in any of Kentucky’s public pension systems pays twice: once as a direct, personal mandatory contribution to their individual account and again as a taxpayer …  So yes, KEA and other advocacy groups believe state employees and public school educator voices should be heard on policy issues that will affect the pension benefits they earn and pay for.”

The fact that Kentucky teachers and other public employees consistently pay into a system as both employees and taxpayers seems lost on Bevin. That those who pay into the system and are promised a return would want to have a say in any changes clearly is an affront to the paternalistic Bevin who seems to want to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll manage it… ”

Fortunately, educators and others are speaking up and speaking out. Most everyone agrees the pension system needs an element of reform — and that reform should be carried out in a transparent manner that is fair to all parties to the system.

MORE on the pension situation.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport


 

Strip Mining Kentucky Pensions

Fascinating tale of what’s going on behind the scenes with Kentucky’s pensions. Here are a few excerpts:

In April 2008, a longtime investment adviser named Chris Tobe was appointed to the board of trustees that oversees the Kentucky Retirement Systems, the pension fund that provides for the state’s firefighters, police, and other government employees. Within a year, his fellow trustees named Tobe to the six-person committee that oversees its investments, becoming the only member of the committee with any actual investment experience. It was an experiment in fiduciary responsibility that ended badly. “I started asking questions when things weren’t sounding right,” Tobe said. “And a secret session was held where they voted to kick me off.”

Several weeks after he was removed, the remaining members of the committee approved a $200 million investment in a hedge fund called Arrowhawk Capital Partners. Tobe, though he remained a trustee, only learned about the deal after the fact, while reading the magazine Pensions & Investments.

The Middle Man

Tobe had never heard of Arrowhawk, and he quickly figured out why: Arrowhawk was a new fund whose first investor was the Kentucky Retirement Systems, or KRS. During his tenure as a trustee, KRS staff had proposed moving 5 percent — roughly $650 million — of the pension’s total holdings, then invested almost entirely in a mix of stocks and bonds, into large, established “funds of funds” — vehicles that allow investors to buy a basket of hedge funds, rather than risking everything on a single fund. Instead, the staff had steered the investment committee in 2009 to a startup fund with no track record. Tobe pressed the issue at several public meetings of the KRS board and eventually, in 2010, an internal audit revealed that Arrowhawk paid more than $2 million to a middle man named Glen Sergeon to land Kentucky as a client. KRS’s chief investment officer resigned during the course of the investigation (only to land a private-sector job as a managing director at a giant investment consulting firm). “Bad publicity, along with mediocre performance, sealed the fate of Arrowhawk,” Tobe wrote in his self-published book, “Kentucky Fried Pensions.” Two and a half years after Kentucky selected the firm for its first-ever hedge fund investment, Arrowhawk shut its doors.

Big Fees

Yet Kentucky’s heavy reliance on alternatives has come at a steep cost. Hedge funds and private equity typically charge “2 and 20” – 2 percent of every dollar invested, plus a 20 percent share of any profits. That works out to fees roughly 10 times what a pension fund would pay to invest in a plain vanilla stock fund. In 2009, the year it began investing in hedge funds, KRS paid $13.6 million in annual management fees. Five years later, that figure had ballooned to $126 million, according to a study KRS itself commissioned — more than twice as much as it had publicly disclosed in its 2014 filings. And that higher figure still didn’t capture all the millions of dollars in those 20 percent “performance fees” that hedge funds and private equity collect — sometimes many years into the future, after the sale of a successful venture — before distributing profits to investors. That same study underscored a second cost: Kentucky’s gamble on alternatives has proven a lousy investment. Had KRS simply matched the performance of the median pension fund in the five years ending in December 2014, the pension would have produced an additional $1.75 billion in earnings. If it had invested in a basic index fund matching the Russell 1000 (the country’s 1,000 largest public companies), KRS would have earned another $9 billion. Even investing the entire pension fund in a long-term bond fund — as safe an investment as there is, short of leaving it all in cash — would have meant hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits during those five years.

READ MORE>

It’s a damning story of gross mismanagement. Combine that with a General Assembly that didn’t regularly meet obligations, and it’s not difficult to see why there’s a crisis of sorts now.

Here’s what else is clear: The teachers and public employees who paid (and still pay) into this system are not at fault. They didn’t make these decisions and they did meet their obligations.

Sorting out a path forward should be done out in the open with the transparency that has been lacking in the pension system for far too long.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KyEdReport


 

KY Teachers Part of Award-Winning ESSA Strategy Team

Kentucky teachers and Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows Cassie Reding and Carly Baldwin are part of a team being recognized for development of an ESSA Strategy Plan.

Here’s more from a press release from Hope Street:

This week, a cross-state coalition of Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows will join 11 other teams in Chicago as finalists of the Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future’s Agents for Learning Challenge. The challenge, which called upon educator teams across the country to create plans that detailed innovative uses for federal funding for professional learning and student outcomes under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), named the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellow team of Trey Ferguson (NC), Cassie Reding (KY), Carly Baldwin (KY), Natalie Coleman (TN) and Debbie Hickerson (TN) as finalists. The “Game Changers” team from Hope Street Group is the only team with representatives from three different states to receive this honor. Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows will also be strongly represented: current Fellow Sarah Giddings and former Fellows Debbie Hickerson and Rebecca Wattleworth will also be in attendance to present their innovative proposals with their respective teams. Trey describes their team’s initial incentive to throw their hat in the competition ring:

“My teammates and I felt too many professional learning opportunities were happening to us, not for us, and definitely not with us. Too many systems are being developed from the top down and do not provide adequate resources or accountability to enhance good teaching practices.”

The finalist teams represent a diverse and knowledgeable group, among them 56 teachers, administrators and learning leaders from 12 different states. When asked about their strategic approach, team member Natalie Coleman tapped into the need for collaboration among educators:

“Our proposal focuses on collaboration and learning from excellence, and we have proposed a model of professional learning that makes it possible for teachers to learn from one another through observations, peer feedback and ongoing follow-up sessions.”

Hope Street Group, a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity, was given the unique opportunity to plan and sponsor the event:

“We were honored to be asked to co-sponsor this event and help plan it,” commented Dr. Tabitha Grossman, the National Director, Education Policy and Partnerships for Hope Street Group. “Giving teachers an opportunity to share their insights and innovative ideas about how educators can learn together and individually is something we hope to do more of in the coming months with the partners who are involved in this event.”

Dr. Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, weighed in on the call for teachers to lend their leadership–their expertise, experiences, and input–in the distribution of ESSA funding:

“States tell us they are looking for ways to capture stakeholder input, and the creative and bold ideas in the applications show how much these engaged educators have to offer as we enter the implementation phase of ESSA.”

In addition to the proposal presentations, the Chicago event will feature opportunities for the team members to engage to receive coaching to refine their plans and build skills in advocating with policymakers. As evidenced by the insight offered in the proposals, the challenge further demonstrates the need for teacher voice in education policy on the school, district, state and national levels. Educators can provide a firsthand perspective into what is effective and needed by students, themselves and their colleagues. A unique perspective only they can offer.

The presentations from the top 12 finalists will be live-streamed from 1:00pm to 3:30pm (CST) on July 22nd and can be viewed from this URL:http://www.learningforward.org/agentslivestream. If you are not available to watch on July 22, the recorded presentations as well as the teachers’ plans will be available online.

To learn more about Hope Street Group’s Teacher Fellows Program, please visit http://hopestreetgroup.org/impact/education/teacher-fellowships/. For additional information or questions, or to request interviews, please send an email to outreach@hopestreetgroup.org.

About Hope Street Group

Hope Street Group is a national organization that works to ensure every American will have access to tools and options leading to economic opportunity and prosperity.

For more on education politics and policy in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

The Prichard Blog on Student Writing

Prichard is out with a post today on student writing.

Here’s an excerpt:

Some writing makes an argument to support a claim. Other pieces inform or explain, and still others provide narratives or real or imagined experience. Our Kentucky Academic Standards call for students to become skilled in all three, but that still leaves room to puzzle about how much teaching and learning time should be invested in each kind.

Read more on this important facet of teaching and learning.

For more on education policy and politics in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport