Thursday, May 31, 2007

No damages for student who said 'That's so gay'

A judge ruled last Tuesday that a high school student who sued after being disciplined and then mercilessly teased for using the phrase "That's so gay" is not entitled to monetary damages.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Elaine Rushing said she sympathized with 18-year-old Rebekah Rice for the ridicule she experienced at Maria Carrillo High School. But, the judge said, Rice's lawyers failed to prove that school administrators had violated any state laws or singled the girl out for punishment.

"All of us have probably felt at some time that we were unfairly punished by a callous teacher, or picked on and teased by boorish and uncaring bullies," the judge wrote in a 20-page ruling. "Unfortunately, this is part of what teenagers endure in becoming adults."

This from CNN.

Students accepted into first-ever state math and science academy

Two Fayette County students have been selected to attend the Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky at Western Kentucky University.

Sophomores John Bowie from Lafayette High, and Daniel Coffman from Paul Laurence Dunbar High, will join 120 students from across the state this fall as part of the academy’s inaugural class. The pair will spend their junior and senior years at WKU, taking classes offered by the university. At the end of two years, John and Daniel will earn sixty college credit hours in addition to completing high school.

The goal of the program is to enable Kentucky’s exceptional young scientists and mathematicians to learn in an environment which offers advanced educational opportunities and prepares them for leadership roles in the Commonwealth. To be selected, students must demonstrate excellence in the areas of academic content, communication skills, maturity and personal character.
This video from YouTube.

KDE announces Computer savings for Kentucky public school students

Two programs will provide savings on technology to Kentucky’s public school students, the Kentucky Department of Education announced today.

Students can purchase Microsoft software through the new Student Select Program and computers through the Instructional Device Upgrade (IDU) project. Both programs also are available to P-12 education faculties and staff.

Microsoft software products available through the Student Select Program include:
· Office 2007
· Office 2004 for Mac
· One Note
· Project
· SharePoint
· Visio
· Windows Vista

All applications are full versions of the software. The Windows Vista license does require that a qualifying Windows operating system license be previously installed on the computer.

Individuals may save hundreds of dollars when purchasing through this program.

Microsoft Student Select Pricing is available online at Student Select purchases can be placed online at <>. Authentication of eligibility is required.

Additional information on the Student Select program is available at or by visiting and entering “student select” into the Search box.

Students also may purchase computers, including desktop, laptop and tablet models from Dell, HP and Lenovo, at IDU-negotiated pricing. Prices are as much as 50 percent below retail pricing for equivalent models.

Vendor-specific order instructions are included at the top of the IDU order forms located on the Kentucky Department of Education’s Web site at <> or by visiting and entering “IDU pricing” into the Search box.

Barbara Erwin's Kentucky contract language

Last week Kentucky School News and Commentary re3quested and received Barbara Erwin's Kentucky contract. I wrote about the "90 days" issue, but did not present the rest of the contract.

The following is the language from the contract. It is not a .pdf file, and therefore formatting will be wrong and I can't reproduce the signatures on the last page, but otherwise the language is accurate.
This employment contract is entered into as of the 9th day of May, 2007, between the Kentucky Board of Education of the Commonwealth of Kentucky ("Board") and Dr. Barbara Erwin ("Commissioner") in order to enhance administrative stability and continuity within the elementary and secondary education system of Kentucky.

1. TERM.
The Board employs Barbara Erwin as Commissioner of Education for a term beginning July 16. 2007 and ending July 15, 2011. If the Board decides not to renew or extend this Agreement, it shall provide written notice of that circumstance to the Commissioner no later than ninety (90) days before the expiration of the Agreement.

As provided in KRS 156.148(2) and 156.010, the Commissioner shall be the executive and administrative officer of the Board in its administration of all educational matters and functions placed under its management and control. The Board, individually and collectively, may refer all criticism, complaints and suggestions called to its attention to the Commissioner. The Commissioner shall have the right to attend all Board meetings and all Board committee meetings, serve as an ex-officio, non-voting member of all Board committees and provide administrative recommendations on each item of business considered by each of these groups. No policy or bylaw of the Board shall diminish the Commissioner's power of authority as prescribed in law. Moreover, all duties assigned to the Commissioner by the Board shall be appropriate to and consistent with the professional role and responsibility of the Commissioner.
The Commissioner shall devote his full time, attention and energy to the business of the Commonwealth's public schools. The Commissioner shall provide prior notice to the Board of the nature and extent of any outside employment or consulting performed on the Commissioner's
personal time and such employment or consulting shall be subject to approval of the Board, said approval not to be unreasonably withheld.

a. Salary.

The Commissioner shall receive an annual salary of $199,500.00. This annual salary rate shall be paid to the Commissioner in accordance with the schedule of salary payments provided for officials listed in KRS 18A. 115(1) (e) or other applicable statutes. The Commissioner's salary shall be reviewed annually by the Board in conjunction with its annual evaluation of the Commissioner's performance. The Board may increase the Commissioner's salary, but any increase shall not be considered a New Agreement or extension of this Agreement unless expressly stated in writing.
b. Vacation and Other Benefits.
The Commissioner shall be entitled to all the benefits applicable to employees as defined under KRS 18A115(l)(e), including but not limited to vacation and illness benefits and leaves, any other forms of insurance protection, retirement program, tax-sheltered annuities, and other unclassified employee benefits. Memberships in professional organizations relating to education may be furnished by the Board for the benefit of the Commissioner.The Commissioner is authorized to establish a supplemental deferred retirement program. The Commissioner shall receive an amount equal to $20,500.00 per annum for such purpose, exclusive of the Commissioner's annual salary referred to above. For purposes of payroll this sum shall be handled in the same or similar manner as the compensation in Section 3 (a) of this Agreement.
c. Expenses.
The Board shall reimburse the Commissioner for all reasonable expenses furthering the Board's business, including expenses for actual and necessary travel and similar items pursuant to KRS
156.148(4), regulation and Board policy, as applicable.
d. Transportation.
The Commissioner shall be furnished a fully equipped vehicle in accordance with KRS 44.045.
e. Medical Examination.
In light of the unique nature of the professional duties of the Commissioner of Education, the Board shall, at its expense, provide a complete medical examination of the Commissioner
not less than once every two years and no more than once each year. Any report of the medical examination shall be given directly and exclusively to the Commissioner. The Board shall be advised in writing by the physician whether the Commissioner continues to have the continued physical fitness to perform his duties, and this report shall be confidential.

To the fullest extent permitted by law, the Board shall defend and hold harmless the Commissioner from all expense, liability and loss reasonably incurred or suffered by the Commissioner in the Commissioner's individual capacity, or in the Commissioner's official capacity as agent and employee of the Board, whether civil,
administrative or investigative, provided the incident arose while the Commissioner was acting within the scope of the Commissioner's employment. This indemnification shall continue as to the Commissioner even if he has ceased to be Commissioner with respect to acts or omissions which occurred before his employment ended, and shall inure to the benefit of the Commissioner's heirs, executors and administrators. The Commissioner may engage counsel pursuant to state contract procedures, if circumstances warrant in the reasonable opinion of the Commissioner, including but not limited to if a conflict exists as regards the defense to such claim between the legal position of the Commissioner and the legal position of the Board.

Each year the Board and the Commissioner shall meet to establish goals and objectives for the ensuing year. The goals and objectives shall be reduced to writing and be among the criteria upon which any evaluation is conducted.

The Board shall evaluate and assess in writing the performance of the Commissioner at least once a year during the term of this Agreement. This evaluation and assessment shall be reasonably related to the description of the Commissioner's duties and responsibilities, and the goals and objectives of the Board for the year in question. At least once each fiscal year, the Board and the Commissioner shall meet in closed executive session (unless specifically prohibited by state law) for the purpose of evaluation of the performance of the Commissioner. In the event that the Board determines that the performance of the Commissioner is unsatisfactory in any respect, the Board shall describe in writing, in reasonable detail, specific instances of unsatisfactory performance. The evaluation shall include recommendations as to areas of improvement in all instances where the Board deems performance to be unsatisfactory. A copy of the written evaluation shall be delivered to the Commissioner. The Commissioner
shall have the right to make a written reaction or response to the evaluation. This response shall be a permanent attachment to the evaluation. Within thirty (30) days of the delivery of the written evaluation to the Commissioner, the Board shall meet with the Commissioner to discuss the evaluation.

The Commissioner's employment with the Board shall be at-will and may be terminated as follows:
a. Voluntary Termination.
The Commissioner may terminate his employment in his discretion upon written notice to the Chairperson of the Board, ninety (90) days in advance of termination if possible. If this occurs, the Commissioner shall be entitled to his salary and applicable benefits, including transportation, through the date of termination, although no additional benefits shall accrue after delivery of notice.
b. Termination Without Cause.
The Board may terminate the Commissioner's employment at any time in the sole discretion of the majority of the entire Board, by providing a minimum of ninety (90) days' prior written notice to the Commissioner.
c. Termination For Cause.
The Board may terminate the Commissioner's employment at any time upon written notice to him following a determination in the sole discretion of a majority of the entire Board that there is "Cause," as defined below, for such termination. If this occurs, the Commissioner shall be entitled to the Commissioner's salary and applicable benefits, including transportation, through the date of termination, less any amount due by reason of any misuse of funds or embezzlement, which shall be due and owing to the Commonwealth immediately. For purposes of this Agreement, the term "Cause" shall mean the Commissioner is convicted of, or pleads no contest to, any crime, whether a felony or misdemeanor, involving misuse of funds or moral turpitude; or a determination is made by a majority of the entire Board, after giving the Commissioner notice and an opportunity to be heard, in closed or executive session to the extent permitted by law, that in carrying out his duties the Commissioner has engaged in serious neglect of duty or willful misconduct, resulting in material harm to the Department or to the elementary and secondary education system of the Commonwealth.
d. Death or Disability.
In the event of disability or illness or incapacity, after the Commissioner's sick leave and compensatory time have been exhausted, the compensation shall be reinstated only after the
Commissioner has returned to employment and undertaken the full discharge of the Commissioner's duties. The Board may terminate this Agreement by written notice to the Commissioner at any time after the Commissioner has exhausted any accumulated sick leave and such other leave as may be available and has been absent from the Commissioner's employment for whatever cause for (i) a continuous period of three (3) months or (ii) 60 working days in a six (6) month period. All obligations of the Board shall cease upon such termination.

In the event of any termination of employment under this Section 7, the Commissioner shall
be under no obligation to seek other employment and there shall be no offset against amounts due him under this Agreement on account of any remuneration from any subsequent employment he may obtain.

This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of Kentucky without regard to conflict of law provisions, except that there shall be no presumption as to any interpretation of this Agreement by reason of its having been drafted or revised by either party. The parties further agree that any action to enforce the terms of this Agreement shall be brought only in the Franklin Circuit Court, and they agree to waive any jurisdictional argument, including but not limited to lack of personal jurisdiction or forum non conveniens, with respect to any claim or controversy arising out of or relating to this Agreement.

Should either party waive breach of any provision of this Agreement by the other party, that waiver will not operate as a waiver of further breach.

This document constitutes the entire understanding and agreement of the parties, and all previous agreements, understandings, and representations are canceled in their entirety and are of no further force and effect. No amendment, change or modification of this Agreement shall be valid unless in writing signed by the parties.

If, for any reason, any provision of this Agreement is held invalid, all other provisions of this Agreement shall remain in effect.

The last Page (9) contains signatures only: Dr. Barbara Erwin and Keith Travis, and the date, 5/9/07

Double dealing alleged: The continuing saga of Erwin's not-so "good faith"

Ethics and character questions continue to surround Kentucky's new Commissioner of Education, Barbara Erwin, and her peculiar way of conducting business "in good faith." And some folks in St Charles, Illinois have had enough.

On Monday, Kentucky School News and Commentary asked two questions:

Does Barbara Erwin know what it means to act in good faith?

How is it possible for Erwin, in good faith, to tell the Kentucky Board of Education that she will start her job as commissioner on July 16th, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, telling the St Charles Board of Education that she will be their superintendent until August 4th?

But that's what she did.

Here's the history:

In October 2006, Erwin told the St Charles board that she would retire on August 4th 2007.

The Kentucky State Board of Education ratified - and Barbara Erwin signed - her contract on May 9 in Bowling Green, during a closed session.

A copy of the contract obtained last week by Kentucky School News and Commentary and independently verified by the Kane County Chronicle shows the signatures of Erwin and Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Keith Travis, and a notation of the date “5/9/07.”

“She had already received and signed that portion of the contract a week-and-a-half, two-weeks prior, and all that was left for the board was to ratify that contract,” Travis said. “She was present; she was in part of our closed session. After we finished that, we asked her to be excused, we deliberated, then signed it around 1:30 in the afternoon.”

As of the moment she signed, she had every reason to expect that her first day in Kentucky would be July 16th.

But that's not what she told the folks in St Charles.

As recently as May 23, Erwin gallantly reaffirmed that her last day in St Charles would be Aug. 4 and said, “I signed a contract in good faith with the board, that’s my comment.”

However, in a letter to St Charles board chair Kathy Hewell (received May 25), Erwin said she would leave on July 13th, three weeks earlier than previously planned.

Hewell said (what we suppose she was told), “The date changed based on the fact that [Erwin] received her signed contract shortly before she sent this letter.”

Shortly before? Erwin knew more than a week before her May 9th meeting in Kentucky! Hewell told the Kane County Chronicle she would release the letter with Erwin’s approval.

On Tuesday May 29, the St Charles District 303 Board of Education met in closed session where the other St Charles board members, first became aware of Erwin’s change in plans.

Due to the Kane County State's attorney's pending investigation into Erwin's contract irregularities, board members have remained tight-lipped on the issue.

But one board member did acknowledge his frustration. “This has been a difficult time for everyone, frustrating, this whole business,” board member Chris Hansen said.

Hansen has every right to be frustrated. And public reaction in St Charles is growing.

The Kane County Chronicle's news editor Dan Campana called for Erwin to pack up sooner rather than later. His article, "Barb: It’s time to pack your bags and go" calls for a clean break with the district so that the new superintendent - the one they hope will patch up what's presently borken - can make a clean start. As he sees it, the only person who benefits from Erwin sticking around past June 30th - is Erwin.

"Anyone who’s ever quit a job, or “retired” from one, knows the last week is all about cleaning up and getting out – with some work and a party likely mixed in.

So, what’s accomplished out of these two weeks? Another paycheck earned and 85 days in your pension, that’s what.

...Coming off a tenure in St. Charles where ill-will has blossomed like spring flowers, Erwin should take some time for herself."

Other citizens have also weighed in.

"myidea" wrote:
" See Ya! I hope the money from the 85 sick days stays with the state of Illinois for more than 5 teachers paid sick days for the year! "

"AreYouKiddingMe" wrote:
" We have a competent superintendent starting July 1, why do we need 2 on the payroll? Good luck Kentucky, seems the "oops I forgot to mention" has even begun before a job was started. Shame on the school board for not sharing the date change at the public school board meeting on Tuesday 5/29 if they knew 5/25 of a change. It's time to do the right thing by the taxpayers of this district and say goodbye before our new superintendent joins the team. "
Erwin is done in St Charles - whenever the date. But this is Kentucky's new commissioner. The real question is: What is the Kentucky Board of Education thinking?

Resume padding?
Character lapses?
Bad faith barganing?

They have "cause" if they want it.

They can dismiss with 90-days notice without cause, and perhaps that's the best route. No harm, no foul. Pay her something for her trouble and be done with it.

What's it going to take for our board to reassess this selection? Are any members concerned? Are members talking to each other even now?

And if the board fails to act - what then? They sure won't be able to claim they didn't see trouble coming.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

High School yearbook photos ignite controversy

Pictures show students drinking, smoking marijuana

Most likely to succeed?

Try most likely to go to jail.

The yearbook for the high school in this mountain town near Denver published photos of students smoking marijuana and drinking beer, drawing the ire of parents and administrators.

Hannah Fredrickson, the senior who served as yearbook editor, said she regrets not balancing the yearbook pictures of teenagers smoking pot with pictures of non-drug users. She also said she is sorry about not warning her principal.

But she said people need to know what is going on.

“The point of the yearbook entirely is to cover what happens in the year,” she told KCNC TV (Video). “You’d be surprised at how many children at Conifer High School smoke pot. I wanted to push more for a deeper side of Conifer, which, for a lot of students, is drugs and alcohol...”

...Students were shown holding a bong and exhaling smoke in a section labeled “Health — addicted addictions.” Three female students — all identified — are shown holding citations for underage drinking in a second titled “Regrets and mistakes.”

Amy McTague, the teacher who supervises the yearbook production (video), sent a letter of apology to parents.

“It wasn’t my intent or my students’ intent to portray such a negative tone in their attempt to cover all aspects of a students’ life and some of the very difficult choices they face,” she wrote.

This from MSNBC.

English boy’s balloon launch to find pen pal finds Queen Elizabeth

Monarch told personal assistant to reply to message
that landed in castle
A 4-year-old British boy who released a balloon with a message hoping to find a pen pal in a foreign land ended up having a correspondence with Queen Elizabeth II.

Tom Stancombe let go of his helium balloon in Hampshire, west of London, but rather than flying across to France or half way around the world, it ended up just 20 miles away, landing inside Windsor Castle, the Daily Mail reported.

This from MSNBC.

High School Core Classes Not Enough, Report Warns

A new study, "Rigor at Risk: Reaffirming Quality in the High School Core Curriculum," by the Iowa City-based testing company ACT Inc. "Students today do not have a reasonable chance of becoming ready for college unless they take a number of additional higher-level" courses beyond the minimum, the report said. Even those who do, it concluded, "are not always likely to be ready for college either."

Using research on the college success of students who took the ACT college entrance test, and comparing their test scores to their high school records, ACT researchers found that many core courses were not carefully constructed or monitored and that students often received good grades in the core courses even if they didn't learn much.

This from the Washington Post.

Iraq Orphans Of War Find Safety In School

Janan Salam is behind in her studies, but the 14-year-old hopes to finish fifth grade soon.

The past four years have brought many obstacles to her education: the murder of her father by Sunni insurgents; fighting around her family home in Diyala that made it too dangerous to leave the house; and her family's move south to Sadr City, where until recently it also was too dangerous to be on the streets.
(Photo by James Palmer)
Now, after a four-year break, she is back in school full time.Janan is one of 650 students enrolled in the newly opened Khafal Al-Yuteem primary school. The two-story cement and brick building sits deep in the heart of Sadr City, one of Baghdad's poorest neighborhoods, crammed with an estimated 2 million people.

Built specifically for Shiite children who have lost one or both parents, the school is the first of its kind to be financed by the country's education ministry under Iraq's new government.

This from the Newhouse News Service.

School gives boys the key to becoming real men

D'Angelo Gardner didn't like it when staff members at Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men started telling him to tuck in his shirt, pull up his pants, straighten his tie.He didn't like the unfamiliar feeling of having a black man telling him what to do at all.

His father had died of a heroin overdose when he was 9. His mother, raising three children on her own, hoped that the new charter school in West Englewood could teach her son how to be a man.

"Please pick my son. We need you," Angela Russell scribbled several times in the margins of his school application.Urban Prep, Chicago's only public all-boys high school, opened last fall against the backdrop of nationwide concern over the widening achievement gap between African-American boys and other students.

On the first day of school, the average freshman at Urban Prep was reading at a 6th-grade level.As the academy completes the first year of its experiment to reverse the abysmal high school graduation rate among black male students -- the lowest of any group in [Chicago] -- administrators say they are getting some traction in the classroom.

...Angela Russell, sees [her son] evolving into the young man she wants him to be, in big and small ways. He's less "D'Lo," the boy from the neighborhood, and more "Mr. Gardner."

"I knew I couldn't teach him how to be a man," she said. "That was my whole point of sending him to Urban Prep, so that they could show my son what real men do: They get up, they go to work -- not what you see on the videos or the corner..."

This from the Chicago Tribune:
Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men
* Founded by Tim King, former head of Hales Franciscan High School, a South Side Catholic school for black boys
* Opened Sept. 5, 2006, with 160 freshmen selected by lottery
* Mission: To provide a college-preparatory education
* By 2010 the school will house freshmen through seniors
* 22 employees, most of whom are African-American men: 10 full-time teachers, 12 full-time administrators and staff members
* $2.25 million annual budget; nearly $1 million from fundraisingStudent demographics
* 90 percent come from single-parent households
* 92 percent daily attendance rate.* 95 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch

Urban Prep Creed
We believe.
We are the young men of Urban Prep.
We are college bound.
We are exceptional -- not because we say it, but because we work hard at it.
We will not falter in the face of any obstacle placed before us.
We are dedicated, committed and focused.
We never succumb to mediocrity, uncertainty or fear.
We never fail because we never give up.
We make no excuses.
We choose to live honestly, nonviolently and honorably.

St Charles Board tables Erwin contract issue

The District 303 Board of Education met in closed session for about 75 minutes last night before their regular board meeting. But when it came time to vote on the ratification of Superintendent Barbara Erwin's contract amendment, the board voted to table it until their next meeting. After the regular meeting, the board returned to closed session.

During the citizens' comment portion of the agenda, a citizen expressed her displeasure about the amendment to Erwin's contract.

This from the Kane County Chronicle:
Superintendent Barbara Erwin’s future with the district is clear. What to do with an amendment in her contract remains undecided.

Come mid-July, Erwin will leave St. Charles for the head administrator’s position in
Kentucky; however, the current school board has yet to decide whether she is entitled to a provision in her contract to add 85 sick days into her pension fund.

On Tuesday, the school board discussed the issue behind closed doors twice – once before, then again after it voted to delay action until a future meeting.

“This board is struggling with trying to understand what the previous board intended,” President Kathy Hewell said.Hewell was a member of the 2005 board that approved Erwin’s hiring, extended her contract through June 30, 2007, then added the amendment intended to keep Erwin in St. Charles through June 30, 2010.
The amendment also allowed for a credit of 85 sick days at the beginning of each school year until July 1, 2008.

Since then, the board has turned over four seats, more than half of the board that approved the initial contract. Over that duration, the board failed to ratify Amendment 2, which would have extended Erwin’s contract through 2010 without question.

“The fact that it wasn’t ratified in open session was an oversight,” Hewell said.

Some of those new board members are questioning the logic behind extending Erwin’s contract any further and a few residents are hoping that the new faces
will save their tax dollars.“They may have been legal at the time, but that doesn’t mean they were ethical,” said resident Jenny Brooks, who pointed out that since Amendment 2, state legislators have placed a limit on sick leave to 15 days. “The terms were questionable; they are just plain illegal now.”

Although the board failed to officially approve the contract, Hewell said that application of its content since then inherently made the contract valid.

The school board plans to meet in closed session Friday. If the board does not take action following Friday’s meeting, the issue will on the board’s June 11 agenda.

Incoming Superintendent Donald Schlomann is set to begin his contract in St. Charles on July 16.

Erwin has declared that her final day with the district will be August 4. Erwin could not be reached for comment.


Comments from Kane County Chronicle readers...

"Grampywatches" wrote on May 30, 2007 8:10 AM:
“The fact that it wasn’t ratified in open session was an oversight,” Hewell said. You didnt do your homework and now you get the 'failing' grade.... It is a null and void contract according to law.... deal with it. 85 days sick pay?? Almost three months?? Who dreams this stuff up?? with taxpayers (who you represent..) money?? "

"myidea" wrote on May 30, 2007 8:54 AM:
"And someone voted [Hewell] and Gaffney back in??? How fast can we run the super out of town? 85 sick days is way too many and we all pay for it with our state taxes. Rael voted NO on the contract, the right [thing] to do, where is she now? Oh that's right she didn't get reelected. "

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Creation Museum opened this week. Ho Hum.

Thousands attend opening Believers,
skeptics differ on life's origins

A twisting line of people perhaps five blocks long wound inside and outside the Creation Museum on Monday, waiting to see its exhibits 2½ hours after the controversial $27 million facility opened.
On the first day, the museum hosted more than 4,000 visitors, spokesman Mark Looy said Monday evening.
Beyond the gates, several dozen protesters staged a "Rally for Reason," arguing that the museum's central tenets conflict with scientific dating techniques. For example, the museum declares the earth is 6,000 years old, rather than about 4.5 billion years old.
Overhead, a critics' airplane circled as it had on Saturday, pulling a banner with the message "Thou Shalt Not Lie."
Video from the Associated Press.
A very good special section from the Cincinnati Enquirer including:
What do creationists believe? Here are their explanations for dinosaurs, fossils and continental drift an interactive graphic.
A sampling of Creation Museum stories in the news selected by Answers in Genesis and linked to their original source.
Answers in Genesis is an independent, nonprofit,

international ministry based in Petersburg, Kentucky.

It believes that Genesis is a literal account of creation. Those beliefs include:
• God created the universe in six, 24-hour days, 6,000 years ago.
• The offspring of Adam and Eve married their brothers and sisters.
• Dinosaurs and humans co-existed.
• Dinosaurs were originally vegetarians.
• The biblical flood formed the Grand Canyon, fossils and coal beds.
• Noah brought dinosaurs on the Ark.
• If Genesis is not true, the truth of the entire Bible is undermined.
• No scientific evidence can be valid if it contradicts the Bible.

Museum Director Ken Ham and friend.

At the Creation Museum, a fanciful Eden rises from the void. Adam appears, bearded and handsome, if slightly waxen. Eve emerges from his rib with luxuriant hair and a kindly expression. Trees blossom and creatures frolic, evidence that all started well in God's perfect world.
Elsewhere, as the story develops, Cain stands over his slain brother, Abel; life-size workmen build a replica of Noah's ark, and Methuselah intones: "With each passing day, judgment draws nearer. . . . I can tell you, whatever God says is true."
Despite the showmanship behind the $27 million museum opening here Monday, the evangelists who put it together contend that none of the gleaming exhibits are allegorical. God did create the universe in six days, they say, and the Earth is about 6,000 years old.
Photo by Patrick Reddy/The Enquirer.
This from the Cincinnati Post:
Museum is paid for after six years of fund-raising
The new, $27 million Answers in Genesis museum in rural Boone County doesn't come with a mortgage.

When the museum opens today, all 60,000 square feet will be paid for.

Early on, the staff committed to not borrowing money to build it. It took six years to raise the donations needed, AIG spokesman Mark Looy said. Most of the money was raised through direct mailings to previous supporters of AIG, or those who bought materials from the organization.

From July 2005 through June 2006, AIG spent $1.4 million on fund-raising for the museum and the organization as a whole, 11 percent of its total functional expenses of $12.25 million.
The Family Foundation's Martin Cothran absolutely shrieks in an Op-Ed in the Courier-Journal.
A sneek peek with lots of photos and narration posted by Zachary Webb, on EKU's student website.

Fayette Education Foundation recognizes, rewards achievement at four schools

The Fayette Education Foundation today awarded $5,000 each to four schools for their success in narrowing the achievement gap while raising overall student performance.

Large crowds of students and faculty at Rosa Parks Elementary School, Picadome Elementary School, Maxwell Spanish Immersion Magnet Elementary and Morton Middle School cheered the news that their success would mean additional funds to help continue their outstanding work in raising student achievement.

“Our goal is to get all kids to proficiency and to close our achievement gaps,” Fayette County Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman said. “When we have an organization like the Fayette Education Foundation recognizing schools for positive movement in this direction, it accelerates our progress! We are so grateful to the foundation for all it is doing to help our kids.”

For the third consecutive year, the foundation rewarded schools that have narrowed more than 80 percent of existing achievement gaps; earned an academic index of 70 or higher on the Commonwealth Accountability and Testing System (CATS); and either posted at least a 10-point gain in reading or math, or have reading and math scores above 90. At the middle and high school level, schools must narrow at least 75 percent of existing achievement gaps to be recognized.

Maxwell Elementary posted an overall score of 99.9 on CATS, earned a reading score of 101.8 and a math score of 108.8 while narrowing all existing achievement gaps.

It was a record year for Morton Middle School, where students earned an overall score of 97.4 – a school best – and also posted the school’s highest-ever reading and math scores of 109.6
and 96.3, respectively. There was also great movement on narrowing achievement gaps with the most significant improvements on the race gap in math and the reading gap between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers.

Overall on CATS, Picadome Elementary had a score of 94.6, with a reading score of roughly 91 and a math score of nearly 108. The school dramatically reduced achievement disparities among groups of students, and completely eliminated both its gender gap in math and its race gap in reading.

Rosa Parks Elementary beat 100 for the first time, with an overall CATS index of 103.8, a reading score of 107.7 and a math score of 116.5. Progress on achievement disparities included closure on all existing gaps.

In 2005 and 2006, two schools achieved the required benchmarks each year. In 2007, the number of schools receiving awards doubled.

“The foundation believes that a strong education system is fundamental to a successful community,” Chairman Stephen R. Byars said. “We must continually work to provide innovative and enhanced learning opportunities for all children.

“It’s not just an issue for the school system. It’s the responsibility of the entire community. And I’m pleased to report that the community is stepping up to the challenge.”

The Fayette Education Foundation achieved its initial goal of raising $1 million ahead of schedule, and it continues to raise money for innovative, successful programs that can be replicated throughout the school district.

Previous schools that have received the award are Cassidy Elementary School and Jessie Clark Middle School in 2006; and James Lane Allen and Veterans Park Elementary Schools in 2005.

The Fayette Education Foundation was formed in 2003 with the goal of closing the achievement gap while raising overall achievement for every student in the Fayette County Public Schools.

By raising money for programs not funded through tax dollars, the foundation is mobilizing and enhancing support for innovative and effective student learning practices. The “It’s About Kids,” “Ride for Kids” and “Back to School” campaigns resulted in more than $300,000 in donations and pledges. More than $190,000 in grants has been distributed to schools.

FCPS press release.

Is dyslexia 'just a middle-class way to hide stupidity?'

Dyslexia is a social fig leaf used by middle-class parents who fear their children will be labelled as low achievers, a professor has claimed.

Julian Elliott, a leading educational psychologist at Durham University, says he has found no evidence to identify dyslexia as a medical condition after more than 30 years of research. There is a huge stigma attached to low intelligence," he said.

"After years of working with parents, I have seen how they don't want their child to be considered lazy, thick or stupid.

"If they get called this medically diagnosed term, dyslexic, then it is a signal to all that it's not to do with intelligence."

This from the London (UK) Daily Mail.

Erwin's academic prowess? Was the Kentucky Board of Education given the straight scoop?

Mark Hebert, of WHAS TV in Louisville, has been looking at the material Ray & Associates gave to the Kentucky Board of Education in support of their selection of Barbara Erwin as Kentucky's new Education Commissioner.

He tells me it gives glowing accounts of Erwin's work in her past three school districts, refers to "her strong interpersonal skills," and says that in every district she has improved test scores.

Fine. They should present the PRO side of her experience.

But did they also present the CON?

Was the board of education warned about the possible downside to an Erwin selection?

Did board members undertake efforts toward due dilligence on their own?

I have not seen this material yet, but requested it over the long weekend. I'll let you know what I find out.
Much has already been discovered that puts Ray & Associate's glowing accounts of her supposedly strong interpersonal skills into serious doubt. Perhaps even more disturbing than her resume padding is her legacy of division and strife wherever she has been. The general temperament question has been - and continues to be a problem.

The latest round of her embattled career will take place in closed session tonight in St Charles, where District 303 board members will discuss on-going problems with Erwin's contract amendment number 2, the state's attorney's investigation, and "imminent litigation."

It's the kind of strife that seemed to follow her from Allen, Texas; to Scottsdale, Arizona; to St Charles, Illinois; and now to Kentucky. It makes me wonder, does strife follow her - or does she lead it?

The test score improvement claim is more difficult to establish. There are a few reasons for this.
  • First, we have a superintendent who hits and runs. Not being in a place for long has a tendency to reduce the impact of any one person.
  • Second, in Texas and Illinois (at least), the state changed (many say downgraded) the assessment program in the middle of her tenure. (Texas in the late 90s and Illinois last year.) This had the effect of raising nearly every school's scores. A rising tide lifts all boats. But if Erwin is indeed some kind of academic miracle worker, we ought to be able to find evidence of student achievement that surpasses her peers. To what degree did her accomplishments outstrip gains made simultaneously by all other district?
  • Third, her school districts (at a glance) appear to have all been upscale suburban districts that had low percentages of low income students and relatively little diversity. She seems to have thrown a lot of money at problems and contributed a good bit to attorneys fees.

Study of incomes for men in 30s: Dad had it better

American men in their 30s today are worse off than their fathers' generation, a reversal from a decade ago, when sons generally were better off than their fathers, a new study finds.

The study also says the typical American family's income has lagged far behind productivity growth since 2000, a departure from most of the post-World War II period.

The findings suggest "the up escalator that has historically ensured that each generation would do better than the last may not be working very well," says the study, released Friday.

Family incomes of 30-something men have continued to rise in recent decades, but mostly because more of their wives are working, the study's authors said. Yet even with the addition of women's paychecks, the rate of family-income growth has slowed.

Along with data showing more workers are earning less in comparison with the incomes of top earners, the report suggests a growing number of Americans "believe that the rules of the game are no longer fair," said John Morton, director of the Economic Mobility Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts and one of the study's lead authors.

This from the Seattle Times.

26 Reasons why everything you think is right - IS WRONG

Those who have thoughtfully tried to grapple with the mountainous volumes of facts, opinions and data to construct an argument for why one course of action is better than another, understand the perils of bias in social science research.

For others, any stretch will work so long as it confirms their desired and predetermined outcome.

For both groups, Healthbolt presents their 26 reasons What you Think is Right, is Wrong. (with lots of wiki-links)

A cognitive bias is something that our minds commonly do to distort our own view of reality. Here are the 26 most studied and widely accepted cognitive biases.

(Members of the Kentucky Board of Education are encouraged to pay particular attention to numbers 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 21 and 23. )

  1. Bandwagon effect - the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink, herd behaviour, and manias. Carl Jung pioneered the idea of the collective unconscious which is considered by Jungian psychologists to be responsible for this cognitive bias.

  2. Bias blind spot - the tendency not to compensate for one’s own cognitive biases.

  3. Choice-supportive bias - the tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were.

  4. Confirmation bias - the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.

  5. Congruence bias - the tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing.

  6. Contrast effect - the enhancement or diminishment of a weight or other measurement when compared with recently observed contrasting object.

  7. Déformation professionnelle - the tendency to look at things according to the conventions of one’s own profession, forgetting any broader point of view.

  8. Disconfirmation bias - the tendency for people to extend critical scrutiny to information which contradicts their prior beliefs and uncritically accept information that is congruent with their prior beliefs.

  9. Endowment effect - the tendency for people to value something more as soon as they own it.

  10. Focusing effect - prediction bias occurring when people place too much importance on one aspect of an event; causes error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome.

  11. Hyperbolic discounting - the tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, the closer to the present both payoffs are.

  12. Illusion of control - the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes which they clearly cannot.

  13. Impact bias - the tendency for people to overestimate the length or the intensity of the impact of future feeling states.

  14. Information bias - the tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.

  15. Loss aversion - the tendency for people to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains (see also sunk cost effects)

  16. Neglect of probability - the tendency to completely disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty.

  17. Mere exposure effect - the tendency for people to express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them.

  18. Omission bias - The tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral, than equally harmful omissions (inactions).

  19. Outcome bias - the tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made.

  20. Planning fallacy - the tendency to underestimate task-completion times.

  21. Post-purchase rationalization - the tendency to persuade oneself through rational argument that a purchase was a good value.

  22. Pseudocertainty effect - the tendency to make risk-averse choices if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to avoid negative outcomes.

  23. Selective perception - the tendency for expectations to affect perception.

  24. Status quo bias - the tendency for people to like things to stay relatively the same.

  25. Von Restorff effect - the tendency for an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” to be more likely to be remembered than other items.

  26. Zero-risk bias - preference for reducing a small risk to zero over a greater reduction in a larger risk.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Trashed: College students leave a lot behind

Clothes and TVs end up at rummage sales and charity donations

With 1,700 students, Davidson College may be small. But you'd never know it when you see the stuff students leave behind at the end of year.

In a large room at a fraternity house, stacks of clothing, furniture, lamps and electronics were already piling up days ahead of last Sunday's graduation. Mixed in were odds and ends that could only wind up together in a college trash pile: a pair of giant Homer Simpson slippers; a collection of Pokemon cards; a batch of fashion disaster dresses you can only hope were costumes from a campus theme party called the Five Dollar Prom.

College students have more possessions than ever, and in the frenzy of finals, commencement and last-gasp partying before the end of the school year, little time is left for an orderly move. Purging is often easier than shipping or storing...

...Ed Newman, who overseas the recycling and reuse programs at Ohio University, calls the spring move-out "a study in conspicuous consumption."

"There are 85 schools in Ohio and 4,000 in this country, and they're all living like there's no tomorrow," he said. Though proud of the efforts, he is also troubled by how much still is wasted. About 80 percent of OU's trash could be recycled or reused.

"It's more appalling than anything else," he said.

This from MSNBC, photo by Lisa Billings/AP.

'Have sex, do drugs,' speaker tells students

A guest speaker at an assembly at Boulder High School in Colorado has told students as young as 14 to go have sex and use drugs, prompting school officials to say they will investigate.

The instructions came from Joel Becker, an associate clinical professor of psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles...

I am going to encourage you to have sex and encourage you to use drugs appropriately," Becker said during his appearance at the school as part of a recent panel sponsored by the University of Colorado's Conference on World Affairs.

"Why I am going to take that position is because you are going to do it anyway," he continued. "I think as a psychologist and health educator, it is more important to educate you in a direction that you might actually stick to. So, I am going to stay mostly on with the sex side because that is the area I know more about. I want to encourage you to all have healthy, sexual behavior."

This from World Net Daily.

America's Top Public High Schools, KY puts ten on the list.

The Courier-Journal reports:

Three Jefferson County high schools are once again among the best in the nation, according to the latest edition of Newsweek.

Eastern, Ballard and duPont Manual high schools are included in the magazine's newest list of America's Best High Schools. Out of 1,258 schools, Manual ranks 112th, Eastern 629th and Ballard 655th.

Newsweek evaluates the schools by dividing the number of students who took the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test by the number of graduating seniors.
In all, 10 schools from Kentucky made it onto Newsweek's list..

112 DuPont Manual - Louisville
629 Eastern - Louisville
655 Ballard -Louisville
691 Paul Lawrence Dunbar - Lexington
778 Highlands - Fort Thomas
898 Henry Clay - Lexington
934 Larry A Ryle (Boone County) - Union
1076 Woodford County -Versailles
1131 South Oldham - Crestwood
1175 Oldham County - Buckner

And this from the Fayette County Public Schools.
And this on Ryle HS from the Community Press.

Erwin tells St Charles "in good faith" her last day is August 4th. But she tells Kentucky (in good faith?) she will start July 16th.

Contract dispute continues.
St Charles to meet tomorrow in closed session regarding "Imminent litigation."

Does Barbara Erwin know what it means to act in good faith?

How is it possible for Erwin, in good faith, to tell the Kentucky Board of Education that she will start her job as commissioner's job on July 16th, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, telling the St Charles Board of Education that she will be their superintendent until August 4th?

The contract dispute in St Charles continues.

The Kane County Chronicle reports:

Just as with the past two years, Superintendent Barbara Erwin is in line to receive credit for 85 sick days July 1, based on her contract.

What’s different this year is that in mid-July, Erwin is slated to take over as Kentucky’s education commissioner. In addition, Erwin’s announced last day as superintendent is Aug. 4, more than a month after Donald Schlomann takes over as District 303’s leader.

Uncertainty over Erwin’s departure has become the latest issue to arise in recent weeks relating to a controversial contract extension in 2005. If Erwin is on the district payroll July 1, she will receive the 85-day credit from the district to her pension fund.“

She is due to start [in Kentucky] on the 16th of July, but her letter of resignation was dated later than that,” recently elected board member Robert Lindahl said Wednesday. “I would like to see some negotiation to find a just and fair resolution.”

In October 2006, Erwin announced that she would retire from the district. Recently, Erwin told a Kentucky newspaper that differences with the St. Charles school board prompted her decision.“

I will wait to hear from Dr. Erwin to hear exactly what her plans are, but so far, I have seen nothing or heard nothing that would indicate that she is leaving before Aug. 4,” board member Lori Linkimer said.

Asked Wednesday about ongoing issues surrounding her contract, Erwin confirmed her resignation takes effect on Aug. 4 and said, “I signed a contract in good faith with the board, that’s my comment.”

Erwin’s contract came under scrutiny after former board President Bobbie Raehl asked the board to look into how and when it was approved. Included in that contract was an amendment that credits Erwin’s pension fund with 85 sick days each July 1 until it expired.

Minutes from an April 11, 2005, board meeting do not indicate a vote to approve extending Erwin’s contract to 2010. The contract was signed the same day.The issue of a possible Open Meetings Act violation is being looked at by the Kane County state’s attorney’s office.

Meanwhile, while the board awaits its attorney’s opinion on the contract, members who served at the time continue to defend their actions.“I think that’s all under the category of things we need to discuss with our lawyer; ... but what we did was perfectly acceptable at the time,” Board President Kathy Hewell said.

Board member Karla Ray says the sooner the district can start anew with Schlomann as superintendent, the better.“

We represent the residents in St. Charles, and it would be ridiculous to give her those 85 sick days,” Ray said. “I think it would be best for the district to end on a positive note. We need to start with a new superintendent.”

Board members are expected to discuss the contract situation at their May 29 meeting.

In the mean time, some already appear to be looking at the approach to future contracts.“Going forward, you need to make sure the contracts we enter into don’t have provisions that leave the taxpayers at risk,” Lindahl said. “We must explore what options are available to the board with Dr. Erwin’s exit."


A citizen commenting on the Kane County Chronicle's story raised yet another issue:

"AreYouKiddingMe" wrote on May 24, 2007 7:17 PM:

" Why not, she was teaching at Aurora College and Northern last summer. Is it proper protocol for superintendents to receive consulting fees from ERDI? If she started her original contract on July 1 why would she extend it into August? Could it be that she then goes into another year and bumps up her pension and adds to the pot of gold she is getting from this school district? Look at the BIG picture - it's not about the students - it's all about money! "


Section 10 of Erwin's contract stipulates:


Conditions of continued employment of the superintendent shall include:

"...a. her continued willingness to devote the required time, skill, labor and attention to her employment as Superintendent, and her avoidance (unless given prior approval by the Board) of outside consultative work, and activities unrelated to the duties of the Superintendency which would conflict with and/or interfere with her full-time responsibilities as superintendent."
So the questions are:
- Did Erwin work for ERDI, Aurora and/or Northern during her tenure as St Charles superintendent? ...and if so,
- Did the St Charles school district give her specific permission to do so?
- If the Board gave such permission, is there a record of it?

There IS evidence she taught last summer at Aurora University and get a load of her class times!

The Aurora University Class Schedules, 2006 Summer, (Education) shows that Erwin taught EDU 661, a 3 credit hour class on Educational Leadership, every day for a full week, from 06/19/06 to 06/23/06 - from 08:00AM 04:00PM
The Educational Research and Development Institute (ERDI) is a Lockport, Illinois group that promises its corporate clients a private 3-hour panel discussion with five leading educators. ERDI recruits superintendents to serve on such panels and provide clients with frank, candid insight and feedback on an agenda set by the client.

Here's tomorrow's agenda:

Regular Meeting Tuesday,
May 29, 2007 Administration Center
201 South 7th Street St. Charles, Illinois


I. CALL TO ORDER (6:00 P.M.)


- Employment of Employees
- Imminent Litigation

IV. CLOSED SESSION (6:00 – 7:00 P.M.)
- Employment of Employees
- Imminent Litigation


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Daeschner looks back

Stephen Daeschner is leaving the position of superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools after a 14-year stint. In today's Courier-Journal, he talks about his tenure, successes and failures.

Louisville, my family and I have called you "home" for 14 years. That's the longest time I have stayed in any one city since my college days. I think that says less about my propensity to seek out new challenges than it does about Louisville's attractiveness as a place to live and have a family. When I arrived here with my wife in 1993 to assume the leadership of the Jefferson County Public Schools, our two daughters were still toddlers. This is the only home -- and JCPS is the only school system -- our girls have ever known.

...As I've busied myself with packing, I've had some time to reminisce. With the community's unfailing support, we've accomplished a lot of good things for the students of Jefferson County. Our early childhood education program has expanded exponentially for 3- to 5-year-olds, and it regularly receives national acclaim. Our applications of technology extend from the classroom to the business office, and from the cafeteria to the bus compound.

...I want to be very clear about one thing. Many positive things have happened for kids in JCPS over the last 14 years, and much of the credit goes to this fantastic community. Parents, you came in droves to PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences. You volunteered with fund raising and you drove your children to after-school activities. You sent your kids off to school each day, fortified with a good night's sleep and a healthful breakfast. You supervised their homework, and you set high expectations for their academic performance and behavior. In short, you were always there for your children. Most of all, parents, thank you for entrusting JCPS with the education of your children. You could have paid us no greater compliment.

...Disappointments? Yes, there have been a few. I still think we should have closed a couple of underutilized buildings that are sapping much-needed resources. In addition, there is still serious work to be done in order to decrease the suspension and dropout rates and to increase attendance.

Frustrations? Yes, there have been some of those, as well. Five years ago, we presented to the Kentucky Department of Education some feasible options for implementing their mandated systems for handling student and financial data -- options that would meet their needs, yet work in a school district the size of JCPS. KDE refused, insisting that JCPS adopt the same systems being used in the rest of the state. Millions of dollars later, in spite of everyone's best efforts, these systems are still not functional, and we may have to go back to square one.

This from the Courier-Journal, photo by Pam Spaulding.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

National Per Student Public School Spending Nears $9,000

The United States spent an average of $8,701 per pupil to educate its children in 2005, the Census Bureau said Thursday, with some states paying more than twice as much per student as others.

New York was the biggest spender on education, at $14,119 per student, with New Jersey second at $13,800 and Washington, D.C., third at $12,979, the Census Bureau said. Seven of the top 10 education spenders were Northeastern states.

The states with the lowest spending were Utah, at $5,257 per pupil, Arizona $6,261, Idaho $6,283, Mississippi $6,575, Oklahoma $6,613, Arizona $7,817, and Kentucky $8,066. The 10 states with the lowest education spending were in the West or South.

Overall the United States spent an average of $8,701 per student on elementary and secondary education in 2005, up 5 percent from $8,287 the previous year, the bureau said.

Funding is largely a state and local responsibility under the U.S. system, with 47 percent coming from state governments, 43.9 percent from local sources and only 9.1 percent from the federal government.

Students in northeastern and northern states tend to perform better on standardized tests than students in southern and southwestern states. But experts say the correlation between spending and testing performance is not strong.

This from CNN.
The Rankings - Read 'em and weep

From Table 11: States Ranked According to per pupil Elementary-Secondary Public School System Finance Amounts: 2004-2005

US.......... 10,159
1 DC.......... 17,809
2 NJ.......... 16,213
3 NY.......... 15,791
4 CT.......... 13,890
5 MA.......... 13,474
6 WY.......... 13,434
7 VT.......... 13,298
8 HI.......... 12,415
9 RI.......... 12,329
10 DE.......... 12,255
11 PA.......... 12,208
12 AK.......... 12,064
13 MD.......... 11,466
14 ME.......... 11,259
15 IN.......... 11,226
16 NH.......... 11,085
17 WI.......... 10,997
18 OH.......... 10,884
19 MI.......... 10,486
20 MN.......... 10,360
21 IL.......... 10,101
22 VA.......... 9,956
23 NE.......... 9,916
24 WV.......... 9,637
25 CA.......... 9,582
26 GA.......... 9,479
27 IA.......... 9,324
28 ND.......... 9,210
29 MO.......... 9,154
30 NM.......... 9,146
31 OR.......... 9,035
32 SC.......... 9,023
33 KS.......... 9,013
34 CO.......... 8,958
35 WA.......... 8,941
36 FL.......... 8,775
37 MT.......... 8,772
38 TX.......... 8,686
39 AR.......... 8,587
40 NV.......... 8,438
41 SD.......... 8,409
42 LA.......... 8,322
43 NC.......... 8,162
44 AL.......... 8,073
45 KY.......... 8,066
46 AZ.......... 7,817
47 OK.......... 7,775
48 MS.......... 7,349
49 TN.......... 7,202
50 ID.......... 7,074
51 UT.......... 6,510

Note: Payments made by the state government into the state teachers' retirement system and for health and life insurance on behalf of Kentucky school systems are included in the tables.

Also note: Two of the entries are different enough to be considered outliers. Washington D C is a unique entity being a city, rather than a state, to which it is being compared. Hawaii is a state system.

45th ...Lovely.

But these are total revenue figures. Cost of living differences and other factors explain some of the differences in state effort - apart from any political decisions made in a given state. We should probably look closer at the revenue streams that make up this total to better understand the relative impact of of each: Federal, State and Local.

Here's the News: In Kentucky's case, the STATE per-pupil contribution ($4,626) ranks a respectable 24th. The FEDERAL per-pupil contribution ($958) is even better, ranked 20th. It is the LOCAL per-pupil contribution ($2,483) that is lacking, and there Kentucky ranks 44th - contributing less than half the amount from local sources than our neighbors, in Ohio ($5,415), Indiana ($5,378) and Illinois ($5, 775).

House Bill 44 at work
This circumstance is directly related to the passage of House Bill 44 in the infamous special session of 1979. House Bill 44 effectively capped local increases to 4%.
It's kinda complex, but (with light editing)AP Reporter, Marc Chellgren described it this way:
Generally, a piece of property, such as a house and lot, is assigned a value based on the estimate of what it would bring if it was sold. Taxing entities, from state government to a school board, then apply a tax rate to the value of each piece of property individually. The rate is generally defined as an amount, say 25 cents, for each $100 of assessed value.

Under the provisions of HB 44, receipts from property taxes are generally restricted to an increase of 4 percent each year. But there are gray areas and exceptions.
Local governments can raise more than 4 percent from property taxes each year, but the rate is then subject to a referendum of the voters. And the way the value of property is calculated each year for local districts excludes “new” property, such as a new building.
The state calculation of the total value of property, however, must include the value of new property. The effect is that the overall state tax rate has declined each year because the value of property has increased and the 4 percent cap is in effect. Thus, the tax rate that was 27.9 cents per $100 of assessed value in 1979 had fallen to 13.6 cents by 2001.
How does House Bill 44 impact a school district?
A very good description of the bill's negative impact on the Jefferson County schools comes from a Courier-Journal Op-Ed that ran last August 30th called "Bad Math for Schools."

Why is House Bill 44 considered so infamous, by those who care about good government? Just look at how it kept the Jefferson County school board from
raising the huge sums required just to meet state and federal demands.

This near-mythic piece of bad legislation prevents local government from raising more than 4 percent in new money without submitting the increase to more-or-less-certain rejection in a referendum.

Your school board did as much as it could this year, setting rates at the highest level allowed. But that actually amounted to a reduction, from 62.5 cents per $100 of assessed value to 61.5 cents. You'll pay $10 less per year on a $100,000 home.Even so, thanks to higher property values and local development, the rate will produce an additional $4.8 million for JCPS to spend in 2006-07. To which you say, "Great!"

Not so fast.

Funding formulas adopted with the Kentucky Education Reform Act have massively disadvantaged this city's schools. Unfunded mandates from Frankfort and Washington have added hugely to the problem.

It costs more than $33 million to transport kids the way JCPS must do it, but state support leaves the district almost $17 million short.It costs $6.4 million to educate kids housed in state institutions in Jefferson County, but the state contribution shorts the district by $1.7 million.Giving special help to those for whom English is a second language? It's required, and it should be, but it costs the district $4.9 million more than the feds and Frankfort provide.

Preschool? JCPS has to chip in an extra $12.5 million. Special help for homeless kids? An additional $449,000. Vocational education? Another $3.3 million. Technology? An additional $1.5 million.

The General Assembly loves to hand out raises to school employees, but won't pay for them. That alone is a $24 million problem for JCPS over two years.And who can be against spending the money on special education that's been mandated, but not supplied? That's another $30.5 million in local tax money the district must spend.

Everybody wants better trained teachers, so more professional development has been ordered up. But it's under-funded, by $3.2 million.

To paraphrase a famous witticism, "A million here, a million there, and it begins to add up to real money." In this instance, more than $100 million. And every dollar spent on unfunded mandates is a dollar not spent on a long list of other needs.

It's not great. It is, in fact, a shame.

Funding formulas, the tax cap and unfunded mandates "have massively disadvantaged this city's schools."

SOURCE: Newsbank

Edition: metroSection: ForumPage: 12A
Dateline: Jefferson County, Kentucky
Copyright (c) The Courier-Journal. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: lou33769597
Also notable is a reponse from retiring Beechwood superintendent Fred Bassett, who described the same erroding effect on the small northern Kentucky suburban school district. Bassett's "Between SEEK and HB 44, schools actually lose money" ran in the Courier-Journal September 3rd 2006.
In regard to the editorial about the effect of House Bill 44 on Jefferson County school district funding ("Bad math for schools," Aug. 30), an important point was not mentioned.
Just as Jefferson County's school district experienced an increase in property assessments of more than 4 percent this year, so did Beechwood Independent School District in Fort Mitchell. And just as Jefferson County's tax rate actually went down to produce the maximum 4 percent increase in local revenue, so did Beechwood's.
What many taxpayers don't realize is that when this happens, the local school district actually loses money under the state's SEEK school funding formula.
This can been demonstrated by looking at Beechwood's experience over the last five years. In 2001, the Beechwood real estate property tax rate was raised 26 percent by vote of the community to a rate of 69.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.But the next year (2002), the tax rate dropped to 64.4 cents; the property in the district was reassessed and went up 12.9 percent but the district took the 4 percent increase in local tax revenue. If the tax rate had stayed at 69.5 cents, the revenue also would have increased 12.9 percent. After that, the property tax rate increased slightly each year as the board voted to take the 4 percent annual increases in revenue.
As a result, it was only last year (2005) that the rate rose above the 2001 level and reached 70.4 cents.
In 2006, because the assessed value increased by 5.5 percent and the board took the 4 percent increase in local tax revenue, the rate dropped to 70.1 cents per $100. This happened for the same reason that the rate dropped in 2002, namely, that if the rate had remained unchanged, revenue would have increased by more than 4 percent. (It would have gone up 5.5 percent.)
The critical thing to realize is that because the total assessed value of property in Beechwood went up 5.5 percent, the state funding formula (SEEK) assumes that the district is going to get 5.5 percent more in local revenue this year — and will reduce the allocation of base-level state funds to the district by that amount.In reality, though, the district will be getting only a 4 percent increase in local revenue because House Bill 44 restricts tax revenue increases to 4 percent without the increase being subject to voter approval.
Thus, the school district will lose money, even after taking a 4 percent increase in local revenue, because state funding will go down more than local funding will go up.
Obviously, if the Beechwood Board of Education had taken anything less than a 4 percent increase in local tax revenue, the district would have lost even more money, because the gap would be greater.(In fact, in 2002, the loss in funding caused by the SEEK formula was very large because the local property assessments rose by 12.9 percent and the gap between the loss in state funds and the actual 4 percent increase in local funds was considerable.)
Clearly, something is wrong with the SEEK school funding formula, and it needs to be fixed.
Superintendent, Beechwood Independent School District
Fort Mitchell, Ky. 41017
Edition: METROSection: ForumPage: 2H
Dateline: louisville, ky
Copyright (c) The Courier-Journal. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Record Number: lou33998451
Bassett is correct. Something's wrong.
When the General Assembly rewrote the laws governing Kentucky's public schools in 1990, they left House Bill 44 in place. We can plainly see its fingerprints on our national rankings.
But we're a poor state!
True. So let's look at how Kentucky stands when spending is compared to Personal Income.
Here again we see the same story. When adjusted for income, Kentucky's rankings improve. Overall, Kentucky ranks 30th; the state contribution ranks 12th, the federal contribution rnaks 13th and the local contribution - adjusted for personal income - ranks 41st!
So, it's the local school board's fault?
Not so fast.
According to the state constitution responsibility for the whole school system belongs solely to the legislature. The Kentucky Supreme Court in Rose v Council for Better Education declared education a fundamental right required adequate funding. If there is a problem with that system, even if it manifests itself at the local level - it can only be fixed by the General Assembly. School boards and superintendents are unable to extricate themselves from the problem.
How do our districts look?
Well, we get to see the big ones.
KENTUCKY: Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems with Enrollments of 10,000 or More

District............................Enrollment........Total per-pupil current spending

Boone County............... 16,414........ $ 6,069
Bullitt County................. 11,849........ $ 5,971
Daviess County............. 11,943 ........ $ 6,499
Fayette County.............. 35,004 ........ $ 7,766
Hardin County............... 13,832........ $ 6,764
Jefferson County........... 97,976........ $ 8,161
Kenton County.............. 12,955........ $ 6,473
Madison County............ 10,289........ $ 6,516
Oldham County............. 10,579........ $ 6,421
Pike County................... 10,390........ $ 7,424
Warren County.............. 11,983........ $ 5,923

Doing something about diversity at Georgetown College

The Quest for Critical Mass

It’s the college that houses the Underground Railroad Research Institute. The one that offers scholarships to inner-city students and is preparing to host a reunion of a defunct historically black college. You know, Georgetown College, in Kentucky, whose undergraduate population is 94 percent white.

Come again?

William H. Crouch Jr., president of the small, Christian liberal arts college, has heard that response many times before. He’s used to blank stares on the road when he states his goal of Georgetown’s non-white student percentage shooting into the upper teens.

“The fact that I’m a white college president at a mostly white college in a predominantly white part of the country is getting a lot of people’s attention,” Crouch said. “I tell them, ‘We’re in a position to make a difference. It’s the right thing to be doing.’”

To some, Georgetown is known as the college that recently severed ties with its Baptist convention or, simply, as the other Georgetown, not the university in Washington, D.C. Crouch wants to remake that image — and the composition of the student body. In particular, Georgetown is seeking to significantly increase its black undergraduate population without growing its enrollment.

Four percent of the college’s undergraduates are black; that’s 50 out of about 1,400. Georgetown has seen a steady, albeit small, increase in black students over the last two decades but — as the college has also grown in size — not much change in the racial composition of the student body. The president’s target is 12 percent black enrollment.

Crouch, who grew up in Jackson, Miss., during a time of racial tension, said his effort to diversify Georgetown is divinely inspired. It’s a matter of helping an underserved group, exposing the majority group on campus to students of different backgrounds and keeping the initiative narrow enough in scope.

“My feeling is that one reason diversity initiatives don’t work is that our definition has gotten so wide that we don’t get to understand well any one particular culture,” Crouch said. “Therefore, we don’t create a welcoming environment for that particular culture. If we don’t spread ourselves too thin, we will eventually become more welcoming over time [for other underserved groups].”

Georgetown is casting a wide net in recruiting students. The college has developed a pipeline with a program called The First Tee, which gives inner-city students across the country access to golf lessons and mentoring. Six years ago, while speaking at a program convention, Crouch said he was so impressed with one of the high school students, Steven Outlaw, who has since graduated from Georgetown, that he immediately offered him a scholarship.

Christopher Hawkins, who graduated Georgetown with Outlaw this spring, also received a scholarship to attend the college through the golf program.

“It was exciting to know someone offered me a scholarship, but it wasn’t something I was sold on from the start,” Hawkins said. “I’m coming from Atlanta, and this is a rural school in Kentucky. I was thinking of something more like a historically black college.”

But Hawkins eventually enrolled, and so too have a handful of students who found out about Georgetown through the golf program. Crouch said it has helped the college increase its geographic diversity; almost all of the participants come from urban centers where Georgetown has not historically been successful, he said.

Another tactic is to get them early. Crouch is set to offer several high-achieving black male students in 5th, 6th and 7th grades who live in Lexington and Indianapolis (the two trial sites) full scholarships to come to Georgetown if they maintain their grades. The college will rely on churches in those cities to select and keep in contact with the students over the next few years.
Georgetown has also developed a partnership with Bishop College, a historically black Baptist college in Texas that closed in 1988 amid financial turmoil. Crouch said he was displeased to find that Bishop graduates had no place to house their archives and go for reunions. So Georgetown will do both, hosting Bishop graduates for the first time next year. Children and grandchildren of Bishop graduates will also be offered scholarships to attend Georgetown. Crouch says the college plans to use existing money and raise millions more to pay for these initiatives.

The eventual goal is for Georgetown to become a Phi Beta Kappa college, which means, among other things, a demonstrated commitment to diversity.

This from Elia Powers for Inside Higher Ed. And, thanks to Dr. Dave Forman for the lead.