Monday, June 09, 2008

C-J paints Draud with dismissive attitude

Education Commissioner Jon Draud says he isn't going to continue dialogue on the subject of his state car - a $30k Chrysler 300 C he prefers to the lowly Chevrolet Impala at $15k.

So yesterday, C-J continued their monologue without him.

C-J didn't want Draud from the start so this is fresh meat for the editoral board; and will be until Draud fixes it. Shrugging it off won't end the stories. Continued stories will send the wrong message and will seriously undermine his effectiveness. If/when he does resolve the issue, count on C-J to remind him of it every chance they get. It's fair game.

Kentucky School News & Commentary did support Draud - but can't defend his decision on the car.

C-J takes an historical perspective in making their case.

"You know, if those Kentucky education advocates, business leaders and lawmakers who supported reform in the 1980s had simply shrugged and muttered "it is what it is," we'd still be at the bottom of the national heap."

Curious comparison.

Setting aside whether or not it makes sense, C-J's comparison did remind me of where we are in the historical progression of education, technology and Kentucky's economy. And there, C-J got it mostly right.

We are at a period in our society where advanced education can clearly be seen as vital to maintaining our state economy. Global competition...educated know the story. Kentucky will either be competitive or backwater. That decision is being made today; for our children tomorrow.

C-J correctly points out the overall progress Kentuckians can be proud of, including an improved graduation rate, but errs in their estimate of what the basic level of education must be.

C-J suggests, “…the high school diploma is a minimum credential for economic survival…”
But looking at our children's future - it will no longer be a high school diploma. It will be a post-secondary degree (or certification for some kind of specialized tradecraft).

We have seen this kind of change before.

In the 1840s, Kentucky state superintendent Robert J. Breckinridge traveled the state drumming up support for a state system of grammar schools. The aim was to stamp out illiteracy.

By the turn of the century, advances in science and technology brought with it higher demands for a more educated workforce. It was state Superintendent John Grant Crabbe's Whirlwind Campaigns that brought together state civic groups, like the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs, to cover the state in a bombardment against ignorance that resulted in high schools being built in every Kentucky county.

By the early 1980s, technological advances pushed educational need still further. It was the Prichard Committee that held state-wide town meetings in local schools and libraries using KET to unify the message. That helped launch grassroots awareness of the need for better schools. Then, a coalition of courageous local superintendents, including Draud, pushed the ball over the goal line.

From illiteracy, to grammar schools, to high schools, to more effective high schools for all, to college degrees – this progression should continue.

But no reform in Kentucky history has ever been successful without broad grassroots support - and that means educating the public. The General Assembly has demonstrated time and again, that absent strong grassroots support, the legislature would happily under fund the schools. If Senate President David Williams’s comments are any indication, our legislators won’t even feel the pain.

The single most important thing Draud could do to advance education in Kentucky would be to cover the state with education summits, meetings with business leaders, local politicians, PTAs - anybody who will sit still long enough to hear about the importance of education to our state's future economy and the quality of life of its citizens.

To do that, he needs a car. He doesn't need what he got - but that horse has left the barn. KDE owns it and somebody will be driving it. By the time this week's state board of education meeting ends, let's hope this issue ends as well. Draud is entitled to a state car to conduct vitally important state business. By contract, the state must provide him a car that is appropriately safe; and here opinions differ.

But since Draud wanted to sweeten the pot and upgrade his wheels, he ought to reimburse the state according to some prorated formula based on the $15k difference between what every other state executive drives and his ego mobile.

But somehow, Draud's urgent message of the need to, once again, upgrade educational opportunities for Kentucky children - to remain competitive globally - must travel across the state.

That's something we should all support.

Shrugs don't get it
Apparently Education Commissioner John Draud knew all about the cost of the extras that he wanted on his new state vehicle, even though he told The Courier-Journal that he didn't. Emails obtained by the newspaper prove he knew about the $13,000 in add-ons for his new Chrysler 300.

Confronted with either a profoundly faulty memory or a propensity to lie, Mr. Draud told a reporter, "I am not going to continue dialogue on this subject. I was aware of the cost and I approved it. It is what it is."

That's some attitude for the state's highest ranking education official. It's some example for him to set.

You know, if those Kentucky education advocates, business leaders and lawmakers who supported reform in the 1980s had simply shrugged and muttered "it is what it is," we'd still be at the bottom of the national heap.

Instead, the Kentucky Education Reform Act was promoted and passed, and the state's education achievement slowly but surely has risen. We're no long 43rd among the 50 states on an index created by the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center to judge how we're doing in preparing our kids for the competitive world in which they will live and work. We're 34th.

Do you have any idea what it takes to make that kind of move in those sorts of national rankings?

Just this week came news that Kentucky's high school graduation rate has grown at more than double the national average in one recent five-year period. As Art Jester pointed out in The Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky tied with New York for third, nationally, with a 6.2 percentage point gain.

In an era when the high school diploma is a minimum credential for economic survival, this is extraordinary progress.

"We're gradually and steadily crawling out of the nation's cellar," said Bob Sexton, longtime head of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, which for the last quarter-century has led the effort to push for better schools, improved curriculum, top-notch instruction and sustained, adequate funding for the state's elementary and secondary system.

If the Prichard Committee and the other reformers had just shrugged and muttered "it is what it is," we'd still be crawling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm in a part of state government that requires field work, often in rural areas. We don't get a dashboard GPS, just a handheld unit that we have to stop to look at or have a coworker use. The unit doesn't talk and retails for a little over $100. Besides this we have to rely on the county map books and USGS topo maps. The Best Buy ad in Sunday's paper listed a really nice automobile installed GPS for $250 (some considerably cheaper). Mr. Draud is visting schools and school boards. He could search the internet for directions and print them out before leaving the office. He probably has a secretary to do this for him.
The big engine must be nice, but the speed limit doesn't exceed 70 mph anywhere in the state.
Some animals are more equal than others.