Members of the Kentucky General Assembly fanned out across the state this week, unabashedly assuring their constituents back home how well their districts made out in this year’s nearly concluded train wreck of a legislative session.
That might be true, especially here in Hardin County, where money to continue critical preparations for the realignment of missions at Fort Knox certainly are needed, and welcomed.
When you hear those self-justifying rationalizations from state representatives or senators, and Gov. Steve Beshear, especially between now and the November state legislative elections, interrupt and ask,
“Excuse me, but what did you do for public education?
The disadvantaged and disabled?”
"The $26.6 billion public employee pension shortfall?”
Well, times are tough but we did what we could, they will insist, in so many words, assuming you don’t know what really happened in Frankfort the past three months.
Truth is, what they did was shaft education.
Truth is, they slammed the brakes on hard-won momentum the state has maintained for years in improving education opportunities by investing in our young people. There is a direct correlation between quality of life and quality of education in a state.
Truth is they didn’t do anything to resolve the looming pension collision, either, or to help those dependent upon state social services.The current General Assembly has a few days remaining for its members to redeem themselves, but so far they have been the most anti-education in recent memory.
And if Gov. Steve Beshear, whose leadership failed to emerge during his first three months in office, doesn’t improve the K-12 and higher education provisions of the budget before he signs it, he too will share the anti-education brand.
What they are doing to public education in Kentucky is to cut college and universities 3 percent, on top of a 3 percent reduction last year; provide teachers an insulting 1 percent pay raise, the same provided to state employees; and barely maintain the status quo the two years beginning July 1.
Actually, there is no such thing as status quo in education; either a state’s education system is moving ahead or it is falling behind.
Kentucky undoubtedly will be slipping behind the next two school years and it will be far more expensive to catch up after that if education ever works its way back to the top of Frankfort’s priorities.Businesses will take that into consideration before deciding to locate or expand here. So will those coveted federal service employees trying to decide whether to follow their jobs to Fort Knox.
Even House Budget Committee Chairman Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, voted against the anti-education budget. It was the first time in his 29 years in the legislature Moberly voted against a budget. He was joined by 20 other House
members, mostly Democrats, and three state senators.
The deal that clinched adoption of the austere, education-busting budget provided money for a package of local projects that sated the consciences of lawmakers who wanted to boast back home in this election year about how well their districts made out this session. They found money for projects, but not for education.
The Senate rejected an opportunity to increase the tobacco tax to raise additional state revenues, and to encourage smokers to quit and young people not to begin. They found sympathy for smokers, but not for education.
Faced with continued declining tax collections, Beshear cautioned he might have to call lawmakers back into a special session.
It would be cynical and certainly counter-productive if the governor were to use the plight of public education as justification to revive his failed call for a statewide vote on expanding gambling.
Only 11 states spend less per student on public education than Kentucky, according to a U.S. Census Bureau analysis of 2006 state education finances.Now, because of the priorities of this session of the General Assembly, it will be difficult if not impossible for Kentucky to maintain even that ranking.
Monday, April 07, 2008
This from the News Enterprise: