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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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>

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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