Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prichard Committee Tackles Tough Issues

Notes from the Prichard Committee Fall 2012 Meeting at UK.

 On a couple of occasions today it seemed that Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu 
Silberman was a apologizing to members because the meeting was not more uplifting. But I guess that's what you get when early childhood education and the Kentucky tax structure are on the agenda. Both are presently stymied by legislative inaction.

Prichard Chair Harvie Wilkinson piled on when he told of two of his daughter's friends who graduated UK with 3.7+ GPAs and a tank full of ambition. They wanted to be teachers. But after two years in a high-poverty elementary school, under today's conditions, with little support, no mentoring, no professional development, 30ish kids, and no time to do what they have been asked to do, they are seeking a new profession. Harvie asked Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton what he would say to them and Tom was honest enough not to contrive some BS on the spot. There's really not a lot anyone can say to refute what they must be feeling. The work has never been harder, the standards higher, or the resources spread so thin since the late 20th century reform movement began. "We talk about cuts while the needs keep growing," Shelton said. "Our greatest resource is our teachers...and that's the place where investment needs to take place." Shelton reported that since the 2008 recession FCPS students have moved above 50 percent on free and reduced lunch...78 percent for students of color.

Dr Ruth Ann Shepherd presented a ton of data and research on early childhood education and why educators should care about the state's HANDS Home Visiting Program. I could not help but notice how closely the research mirrored that presented by Paul Tough in his new book How Children Succeed. We have a school system that is necessarily based on the attainment of cognitive skills, yet IQ and high test scores are not the things that correlate most highly with success in life. Those are non-cognitive skills closely related to good parenting and most easily and effectively taught when children are very young.

The bulk of the afternoon was spent discussing money. Former "Cassidy Dad" and UK Economics Professor Bill Hoyt taught a lesson on taxation that I am not particularly qualified to relate, but I'll take a swing at in the form of loose notes in bullet points. Bill is a consultant for the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform which is chaired by Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson who also spoke to the group about the process. (The short story is: don't expect a bill before 2014. Since the upcoming short session would require a super-majority to enact any budgetary measures and heavy lifting will likely be required to gain even a simple majority...it's not going to happen.)

From Hoyt's point of view:
  • How taxes are collected is the question.
    • Opinions differ
    • Bill thinks it’s as much about how we tax as it is how much
    • Tax what?
    • Some ways are more efficient than others.
    • Some ways reduce competitiveness.
    • Part of the trick is to lower the cost associated with collecting taxes - be more efficient.
  • Committee Charge
    • Adequacy (are taxes sufficient to meet state goals) and elasticity (revenues track the economy) are central issues along with...
    • Fairness
    • Simplicity
    • Competitiveness
  • Other concerns
    • Efficiency
      • There is a kind of cost/benefit ratio at play.
      • Taxes distort prices
      • Create a wedge between pricing and value
      • How can the state minimize the impact taxes have on purchasing decisions?
  • Stability
    • The present system held up well in last 4 years essentially because it was outdated and didn’t respond as strongly to hits taken by the most active part of the economy...but it won't be stable going forward
    • Present system has low elasticity
  • Tax Structure
    • In Kentucky collections are centralized
    • Ky is more reliant on income tax than most states
    • Slightly less on sales tax
    • We have low property tax...for the most part (House Bill 44 sucks [my words not Bill’s])
    • Among competitor states, Ky ranked 2nd in state tax at 7.3% of income
    • But ranks 10th in combined state and local tax
  • Adequacy & Elasticity
    • The present structural imbalance will leave the state $1 billion out of whack by 2020
    • Revenue will decline to 6.5% a level not seen since 1968.
    • Kentucky revenues are below average compared to our most competitive states
    • Kentucky’s spending on Public assistance and Medicaid is above average
    • State and local spending on K-12 Education is below average of competitive states
    • “Despite demonstrating the highest growth rate in state and local education spending from 2001 to 2009, Kentucky ranks 10th and 12th respectively in elementary and secondary education spending as a percentage of personal income and per capita.”
    • Kentucky ranks 4th in state and local funding of higher education
    • Spending is above average in transportation and corrections
  • Equity Concepts
    • Vertical equity...fairness in treatment of individuals
    • Horizontal equity...folks with similar income levels ought to pay similar percentage
    • Economic incidence...who actually pays (i.e., taxes paid by gas station..but cost passed along to buyer)...or pushed back to labor
    • Businesses never pay taxes. Only people.
  • Competitiveness
    • In what ways do taxes affect business?
    • Ky ranks third in business taxes as a percentage of private sector gross state product for 2011
    • Studies show Ky with 4th lowest tax rate affecting business
  • Policy Options
    • Not simply a menu: Some are minor, others major, some are mutually exclusive, others most effective when used in certain combinations
    • Advantages are seen in a broadened tax base
      • More elastic
      • Lower rates for all
      • Reduced inefficiencies
      • Should reduce differences in tax treatment
      • Increase Ky’s competitiveness and employment
      • Reduce compliance costs
  • Other Random notes
    • State earned income tax credit?
    • Make taxable income equal to adjusted gross income?
    • Tax base no longer matches what we consume?
    • Residential use of electricity?
    • Avoid using tax of purchases from business to business due to tax pyramiding.
    • Can't yet tax Internet purchases..Perhaps Ky should support federal legislation allowing it.
    • Lot of concerns on cross border shopping in Louisville and N Ky.
    • Corporate income tax...controversial...but only a small chunk of the state budget...6%.
    • Most states use: sales, capital, employment...taxes
    • Kentucky could permit a local sales tax.
    • Dump HB 44…because it sucks (my words not Bill’s)
    • Occupational license tax puts us at a competitive disadvantage.
    • Sales tax on services?
    • Luxury item tax? Country club..golf..limos...?
To explore the impact at the school level the committee heard from Tom Shelton, Madison Southern HS Principal David Gilliam, Carter Co. elementary school teacher Merry Berry, Danville HS senior Alex Burnside and John Hayek, Sr VP for Budget and Planning at CPE.

Again, loose notes:

·         Tom Shelton...
·         the real issue we haven is adequacy. Equity issues result from lack of adequacy.
 ·         Districts forced to cut back on maintenance..busses..central office staff...running out of places to cut...people and classrooms are next.
·         Cuts in ESS, PD, Safe Schools impact kids...the impending fiscal cliff and sequestration loom.
·         Money cut but no expectations have been reduced.
·         As Council for Better Education Chair Shelton says the state has shirked their responsibility...cities responding with higher local taxes to cover...
·         When Shelton was in Daviess Co. there was a 9-point swing in funding between local and state...shift burden to local taxpayers
·         The SEEK formula is designed to provide equity to [poor districts. When cuts came, the poorest districts in state got the biggest cuts.
·         Early childhood has to be part to the conversation
·         Ability to use funds flexibly helps..capital funds for maintain..insurance..federal stim funds to prep lace busses
·         When legislators cut funding but keep expectations high, it's like talking out of both hides of your mouth

·         David Gilliam Madison Southern HS…
·         ..Flex focus funds significantly reduced...not icing on cake...money was used for interventions to close gaps.
·         Essential school services...innovation...district support to schools dried up...partial salaries on additional staff...encumbered council allocation.
·         You ask teacher what do you need...the biggest answer from teachers was PD
·         ...And time
·         Looking at online PD to reduce costs

·         Alex Burnside...
·         I see all of my teachers are stressed more..
·         Larger classes..
·         I can’t get the one-on-one help I used to get freshman year."
·         We don’t have French any more
·         I haven't talked to my counselor at all this year about college.  He's too busy doing ACT...
·         I haven’t had a new textbook. 

·         We need counselors. I ask my mom..but there are things she knows and things she doesn't ...things change.
 ·        Merry Berry...
o   class size is a problem...
o   There is less help for subjects like art.
o   Youth services have been “cut down to the nub.”
o   Basic necessities now come out of our pockets...shoes for kids...
o   We share textbooks..nobody at the 5th grade can teach social studies or science at the same time...textbooks can’t go home.
o   It's beyond me now. It's down to hurting those 36 kids in that classroom..which shouldn't be 36.
·         John Hayek...
·         1970 full year tuition was about $300..if you had a minimum wage job...during the summer you could pay for a full years tuition in 6 weeks.  
·         Making minimum wage today it would take about 35 weeks to repay a year of tuition.
·         K-12 and higher Ed lost 500 million in the recent cuts.
·         KEES money frozen at $2000...
·         Need based grants are about $100 million short.
·         Need to keep reform momentum going.
·         Teachers are doing more with less.
·         Higher Ed is producing twice the number of degrees as a decade ago.
·         Education is labor intensive..Highest skilled professionals in their discipline...benefit structure is pretty good...tech driven ..rising cost of health care, benefits.
·         $4000 less per FTE...
·         Stu Silberman
o   Need tolook at a blended technology model..generating dollars for $100,000 salaries...fewer teachers more students at once
o   Kentukcy now lacks the teacher supports that we're present when Ky moved from 48th to 34th.
o   Teachers support more rigorous studies for our kids...but they don't have the support they need.

OK, so (if you're still with me) this wasn't the most fun reading you will do today. But the issues are crucial and I congratulate the Prich folks for tackling them..

Superintendent Moore to "retire" effective immediately

This from the Ledger Independent:
Just hours before a special meeting of the Mason County Board of Education, Superintendent Tim Moore gave notice of his intention to retire, but that didn't keep an overflow crowd from attending the meeting and voicing their displeasure with results of a school board audit released last week
The meeting was held at the District's board room downtown, and members of the board of education took less than 10 minutes to conduct business under the rules of a special meeting, which limited items of discussion to agenda items only.

With Moore's chair at the table noticeably vacant, Board Chair Janet West opened the meeting and then said there would be no need to go into executive session to discuss Moore's future with the district due to events earlier in the day.

Board member Kevin Carpenter then read Moore's letter to the board, announcing his retirement "effective immediately."   Within the letter, Moore said "I do so knowing that I am ending my career amidst disappointment and regret. It is my desire that the district move forward and continue the challenging, but rewarding work of helping our students be college and career ready...there was only one goal and that was finding ways to make the school district one of the best in the nation...Please accept my retirement with humility and sincerity with which it is written." There was a motion to accept Moore's retirement, which was passed unanimously.

Business then moved on to discussion of hiring a new accounting firm to review the state auditor's report which cited "excessive spending" by Moore, the board and other administrators and "determine what actions need to be taken concerning reimbursement of excess payments, preparing corrected payroll related tax forms, and advising the Board on any policies and procedures which need to be changed."  Proposals are to be sent to the Board office prior to the next Board meeting on Nov. 12.

Shouts of "unacceptable," referring to Moore "retiring" rather than a "resignation," came from the crowd, along with comments of we will "vote everyone one of you out,"  as board member Curtis "Kirby" Rosser called for a motion to adjourn, which was seconded and then passed.

Board Chair Janet West and Board Member Vicky Lowe quickly left the meeting, but Rosser, Carpenter and Ann Porter stayed and agreed to take questions from the crowd, but said only if those questions would be presented one at a time.

Those assembled wanted to know why Moore would be allowed to keep his retirement, which the board explained is beyond their control, it is dictated by state law.

Carpenter said Moore presented several proposals to the board Monday "to continue his employment with the District," but the board "rejected those."

"The bottom line, he is gone today," said Carpenter...

When asked if other administrators named in the audit report would be suspended or have other action taken against them by the board, attorney Sue Brammer advised board members not to go in that direction because it was a personnel issue.

When pressure continued from the crowd for answers to the excessive spending cited in the state's audit report and no actions being taken by the board to review or questions financials, Carpenter said this board has operated no differently than any other board before it.

To the question of a $200 smoking violation in a (Chicago) hotel being paid by the District credit card, Porter said the charge was repaid, "I think."

At one point, Rosser told the crowd it "won't be business as usual," when members review financial reports in the future and later made the statement, "we're all to blame." ...

As questions and comments continued, board members asked the crowd, which included a large contingent of teachers, why complaints of misuse of district funds and policies were never brought to their attention.  Comments around the room included the words "fear," and "retaliation" from the superintendent.

Former Mason County Middle School teacher Tony Browning came forward and reminded board members of several MCMS teachers attending a board meeting in 2010 to voice their concerns about how things were working under Moore.  Browning said at the end of the school year, six of those people were terminated, five of whom had been labeled as "rebellious" by Moore.

"The staff worked under intimidation," Browning said.

The next regular board meeting will be held Nov. 12 at 6 p.m.  Under state open meeting rules for a "regular" meeting, comments are allowed from the public, outside of the stated agenda items.

EKU broke law by withholding records about Debra Hoskins, state rules

This from the Herald-Leader:
Eastern Kentucky University violated the Kentucky Open Records Act by denying the Lexington Herald-Leader documents about the departure in June of EKU Center for the Arts director Debra Hoskins, the Office of the Attorney General has ruled.

In June, EKU officials tried to fire Hoskins a week before she announced her resignation to the Center's board of directors.

Subsequently, the Herald-Leader submitted an open-records request to EKU for all documents pertinent to the issue, including evaluations, performance appraisals, letters of commendation and letters of reprimand, and the June 12 termination letter and severance agreement. The school denied the request, citing a confidentiality agreement signed by EKU and Hoskins.

The attorney general's opinion, which carries the weight of law, holds that confidentiality agreements do not outweigh the public's right to know details of "the operation of a public agency."
"As the matter currently stands, there is an issue of transparency regarding Ms. Hoskins' departure that can only be resolved by disclosure of internal audits of the center she directed and personnel records relating to her performance as director," the opinion states.

Kentucky law "does not authorize non-disclosure of these records, and EKU's reliance on the exception to support the confidentiality clause in its agreement and release was misplaced."

Previous case law, including a 1997 case between the Herald-Leader and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, reaffirmed that a confidentiality clause "cannot in and of itself create an inherent right to privacy superior to and exempt from the statutory mandate for disclosure contained in the Open Records Act."

Judith W. Spain, EKU's general counsel, said the university would comply with the opinion.
"We recognize the authority of the attorney general in open-records matters and appreciate the clarification provided in this specific matter," Spain said in a statement.

Hoskins was hired at the EKU Center in February 2011 after many years at Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts in Danville. Hoskins' annual salary was about $108,000 as of September 2011, according to data supplied by EKU.

According to minutes from a special meeting of the center's board on June 14, Hoskins was given a letter June 12 terminating her employment and ordering her to vacate her office at the center. The minutes did not offer any reason for the termination, and university officials declined to discuss the personnel matter at the time.

The university announced Hoskins' resignation on the morning of June 19.
re: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/10/29/2388815/eku-broke-law-by-withholding-records.html#storylink=rss?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/10/29/2388815/eku-broke-law-by-withholding-records.html#storylink=rss?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#storylink=cpy

Fordham says Kentucky is Middle-of-the-Pack Union State

How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? 
A State-By-State Comparison 

This from the Fordham Foundation:
This timely study represents the most comprehensive analysis of American teacher unions’ strength ever conducted, ranking all fifty states and the District of Columbia according to the power and influence of their state-level unions. To assess union strength, the Fordham Institute and Education

Reform Now examined thirty-seven different variables across five realms:

The strength of teacher unions in the U.S.

How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? Click map to view larger
1) Resources and Membership
2) Involvement in Politics
3) Scope of Bargaining
4) State Policies
5) Perceived Influence

The study analyzed factors ranging from union membership and revenue to state bargaining laws to campaign contributions, and included such measures such as the alignment between specific state policies and traditional union interests and a unique stakeholder survey. The report sorts the fifty-one jurisdictions into five tiers, ranking their teacher unions from strongest to weakest and providing in-depth profiles of each.