Friday, February 27, 2015

Senate Ed Committee sides with Superintendents, against parents

This from the Herald-Leader:
The Senate Education Committee on Thursday passed a bill that would limit the authority of school-based decision making councils, considerably changing the way individual schools are governed.

School councils would have less power and take on more of an advisory role, and superintendents would have more authority, under Senate Bill 135.

School councils currently set policy and, along with superintendents, help select principals and teachers, and determine which textbooks should be used, among other roles.
Sen. John Schickel, (R, Boone)

Membership of each council includes parents, teachers and a school administrator such as a principal.

Generally, under Sen. John Schickel's bill, the superintendent would make decisions after consulting with the school council.

The bill passed 7-4 and now goes to the full Senate.

When the Kentucky legislature passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990, one major change was in governance, as school-based decision making councils were introduced.

Schickel, R-Union, said superintendents are held accountable for what happens in a school district but "we do not give them the tools they need to manage the school system effectively."

Two senators from Lexington — Republican Alice Forgy Kerr and Democrat Reginald Thomas — were among four on the committee who voted against the bill.

Officials with the Kentucky Association of School Councils spoke against the bill.

Heather Aldrich, president of the association's executive board, said Kentucky had made great gains with school councils. She fears the bill would eliminate teacher and parent voices in raising student achievement.

Aldrich is concerned about elements of the bill that would lessen a council's role on issues such as selecting teachers.

"This bill as written will probably not pass entirely through the system," said State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, who voted for the legislation.

But Higdon said "it starts a conversation."

Higdon said while some school-based decision-making councils are outstanding, "we have some that are not working so well."

Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said that organization is going to remain neutral on the bill.

Hughes said school board members are divided, both passionately supporting and opposing the proposed changes.

Read more here:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tax Cuts Haven’t Led to Faster Growth

As Republican majorities in both houses consider lowering tax rates, a new economic snapshot from EPI examines the correlation between the average top marginal tax rate and productivity growth (how much output is produced in the average hour of work). EPI compared net productivity between 1948-1979 with the period from 1979-2007 and found that, in the most recent period, top tax rates are not associated with faster economic growth. The rich are getting richer, but it is not trickling down to any significant degree. The earlier period saw significantly higher average top tax rate and significantly faster productivity growth.

This from the Economic Policy Institute:
The coming year is likely to see repeated calls from the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress for “tax reform” that leads to lower top tax rates, for both individuals and corporations. The claim made on behalf of these policy proposals is that lower top tax rates will lead to accelerated economic growth. One key problem with such claims is that over the past generation a huge and growing wedge has appeared between economy-wide growth rates and the growth rates of the living standards of low- and middle-income households. This wedge means that even successful efforts to boost economy-wide growth rates do disappointingly little to boost incomes for the vast majority of Americans.

And an even bigger problem with such claims is that lower top tax rates just are not associated with more rapid economic growth. The figure below shows average top tax rates and average productivity growth (how much output is produced in the average hour of work in the economy) for two periods: 1948-1979 and 1979-2007. The earlier period saw significantly higher average top tax rates and significantly faster productivity growth. Obviously many variables will affect productivity growth besides top tax rates, but this data makes clear that magical growth bonanzas cannot be had simply by slashing top tax rates. Policymakers who are really serious about spurring growth—both overall and for the vast majority of Americans—should look for solutions besides lowering the rates paid by the highest-income households.

Tax Cuts Didn’t Lead to Faster Growth

Average top marginal tax rate and annualized productivity growth, 1948–1979 and 1979–2007

Note: Net productivity is used as the basis for the calculation of productivity growth. "Net productivity" is the growth of output of goods and services less depreciation per hour worked.
Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Tax Policy Center data

Fired University of Louisville Executive Sues School, Alleges Retaliation

This from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting:
A former top administrator at the University of Louisville has filed suit against the school’s board of trustees, alleging he was fired because he spoke out about health insurance bidding issues and racial discrimination of employees.

Sam Connally
According to a complaint filed Tuesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, Sam Connally, former vice president for human resources, claims the university violated Kentucky’s whistleblower statute and the state’s civil rights act.

An attorney hired by the university, however, determined in December that Connally’s claims were without merit.

Connally alleges that Provost Shirley Willihnganz retaliated against him because he complained that Humana Inc. received an unfair advantage in the bidding process for university health insurance. Connally alleges the school was planning to solicit David Jones, Sr., Humana’s founder, for a $10 million gift to U of L’s capital campaign.

“At the end of the day, it’s kind of hard to argue with $10 million,” the suit quotes Willihnganz as saying.

In 2012, the lawsuit states, U of L sought proposals for a healthcare provider for the following year. A preliminary assessment showed that the bid should be awarded to United Healthcare because of an estimated savings of $1.2 million over the bid submitted by Humana, the suit states.

A few days later, however, Connally alleges that Willihnganz disclosed to him that Michael McAllister, chairman and CEO of Humana, had written to President James Ramsey during the open bid process to complain about how the university’s benefit consultant evaluated the bids.

Connally alleges that Willihnganz made it clear that the administration wanted to extend “every possible courtesy to Humana in the selection of a health plan vendor since the university was planning to solicit David Jones, Sr. … for a $10 million gift.”

University spokesman Mark Hebert declined in an e-mail to comment. Connally’s attorney, Andrew Dutkanych III, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The complaint states that U of L increased employee health insurance premiums by $25 per employee per month (or $300 per employee per year), totaling $1.65 million per year for the 5,500 health plan participants. This took effect in Jan. 1, 2013. By June of that year, the plan had generated a surplus of $1.65 million.

Rather than return the excess premiums to employees or reduce premiums, U of L moved the money out of the health plan and spent it on non-health plan expenditures, Connally alleges in the suit.
As of June 2014, the health plan generated a surplus of $3.4 million, which according to Connally’s lawsuit,was also spent on non-health expenditures.

In October 2014, the plan was projected to generate an annual surplus of $1.75 million. Of that, $250,000 was allocated to offset minor enhancements to retiree health insurance, leaving a surplus of $1.5 million, according to the suit.

Connally alleges that Willihnganz wanted to consider another premium hike in 2015 “because university general fund budgets were exceedingly tight,” according to the lawsuit. Connally claims he argued that the school couldn’t raise rates without documenting the need based on actual increases in health plan costs.

Connally also asserts he was punished for speaking up in a separate matter. He alleges that the school made false statements to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, denying that black employees in the financial aid office had been discriminated against. Connally himself described their treatment as the “most extreme example of race discrimination” he had observed in more than 20 years as a university EEO officer.

Connally’s claims were previously deemed unfounded by an attorney hired by the school to investigate a formal retaliation complaint filed in October. The attorney, Thomas Williams, said Connally’s complaints “had no credible basis.”

The attorney noted that Connally waited more than two years to file a complaint about the health insurance plan bidding process. The investigation revealed that multiple people were involved in selecting a health care provider and that “Humana did not even receive the bid at issue.”

The investigation also found that Willihnganz had limited involvement with the discrimination claims from employees. “But even if she had been involved,” the report states, “the claims were resolved with negotiated agreements with the EEOC. There were no remaining issues open.”

Williams concluded: “It is apparent from the record that Connally makes his allegations against the provost when he knows his job is in jeopardy.”

Connally was hired by U of L in 2010 and had an annual salary of $192,890. The executive committee of U of L’s Board of Trustees ratified President Ramsey’s decision to fire him on Dec. 18.
Connally declined Wednesday afternoon to comment on the suit, in which he is seeking reinstatement to the university, as well as back pay and other damages.

When Degrees Don't Count

This from Morning Education (via email):
The federal government's formula for measuring college graduation rates leaves out huge numbers of students who have earned degrees - but not from the institution where they initially enrolled. The National Student Clearinghouse [reported this week] that 13 percent of students who started at four-year colleges in the fall of 2008 transferred and ended up getting a degree from another institution within six years. Yet they're still counted as non-completers. The problem is biggest in Minnesota, where 25 percent of graduates aren't counted as completers; Missouri is right behind, at 24 percent. The NSC breaks the data down by state and institution type.
This from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center:

Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Attainment Rates

In the state supplement to our eighth Signature Report, a national study on college completion, we take a state-by-state look at the various pathways that students take to complete a college degree or certificate.

 Among the study’s findings:
  • Nationally, 13 percent of students who started at four-year public institutions completed at an institution other than the starting institution. In 24 states, students who started at four-year public institutions had a higher completion rate elsewhere, with Minnesota having the highest rate at 25 percent followed by Missouri with 24 percent.
  • Traditional graduation measures do not include student completions that happen at institutions other than the starting institution. This means that completions elsewhere are counted as non-persistence. Our state-specific results show that, in nearly every state, not tracking completions elsewhere would lead to at least a 20 percent increase in the non-persistence rate for students who started at four-year public institutions.
  • Nationally, one in three students who started at two-year public institutions completed at an institution other than the one where they first enrolled. In seven states, more than 40 percent of all completions for two-year public starters happened elsewhere.
  • In five states (Iowa, North Dakota, Virginia, Kansas, Texas), more than 20 percent of the students who started at two-year public institutions completed at a four-year institution (with or without first receiving a credential at a two-year institution) within six years. Kansas had the highest rate at 25 percent followed by Virginia at 23 percent (compared to 16 percent nationally).
  • In 11 states, at least one in five women who started at two-year public institutions completed at a four-year institution. Only in two states did at least 20 percent of men who started at a two-year public institution complete at a four-year institution.
  • In 16 states, for students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions, the completion rate was over 74 percent, the overall U.S. completion rate for students who started in this sector. In all but one of those 16 states, one in 10 completions happened at an institution other than the starting institution. In two of states (Minnesota and New York), one in five students who started at four-year private non-profit institutions and completed a degree did so at an institution other than the one where they first enrolled.
  • Tracking students who started college in one state and completed in another substantially added to the overall completion rate for students who started at four-year public and four-year private non-profit institutions. In 22 states, more than five percent of the starting cohort in four-year public institutions completed in a state different than the starting institution’s state. This was true for students who started at four-year private non-profit institutions in 33 states.
  • In most states, traditional-age students starting at four-year public institutions had higher completion rates than the delayed entry (age 21-24) and adult learner (over age 24) groups. In six states (Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, and North Carolina), delayed entry students had a higher completion rate than traditional-age students.
  • In only five states, at least one in three exclusively part-time students at four-year public institutions received a credential (compared to 21 percent nationally). In 21 states, more than 70 percent of students in this category had not received a credential and were not enrolled at the end of six years (compared to 68 percent nationally).

Even Better than a Tax Cut

The challenge is to ensure that a typical worker’s wages grow 
along with profits and productivity.

This from the EPI President Larry Mischel in the NY Times:
WITH the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign underway and millions of Americans still hurting financially, both parties are looking for ways to address wage stagnation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that both parties are offering tax cuts as a solution. What has hurt workers’ paychecks is not what the government takes out, but what their employers no longer put in — a dynamic that tax cuts cannot eliminate.

Wage stagnation is a decades-long phenomenon. Between 1979 and 2014, while the gross domestic product grew 150 percent and productivity grew 75 percent, the inflation-adjusted hourly wage of the median worker rose just 5.6 percent — less than 0.2 percent a year. And since 2002, the bottom 80 percent of wage earners, including both male and female college graduates, have actually seen their wages stagnate or fall.

At the same time, taxation does not explain why middle-income families are having a harder time making ends meet, even as they increase their education and become ever more productive. According to the latest Congressional Budget Office data, the middle 60 percent of families paid just 3.2 percent of their income in federal income taxes in 2011, less than half what they paid in 1979.
Yes, a one-time reduction in taxes through, say, expanded child care credits or a secondary earner tax break, as Democrats propose, could help families. But as wages continue to stagnate, it is impossible to continuously cut taxes and still pay for things like education and social programs for the growing population of older Americans.

Republican tax proposals, like the reforms put forward by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, focus on lowering individual and corporate tax rates alongside revenue-saving efforts to simplify the tax code. But this same approach has been tried for decades — the same decades in which wages have continued to stagnate. Instead, these cuts have helped corporations, shareholders and the top 1 percent capture a larger share of economic growth.

Similarly, President George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which likewise promised to increase middle-class income, were followed by slower productivity and wage stagnation. The latest proposed Republican cuts won’t even provide much short-term relief, as they tend to be targeted at the highest-income households. For example, under a much-touted proposal by Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the middle fifth would gain just $279 in tax relief a year, according to the Tax Policy Center, while the top 0.1 percent would garner the largest rate cut, valued at $248,000.

Obtaining better economic growth, another goal of these cuts, is certainly worthwhile, but it establishes only the potential for broad-based wage growth — it’s no guarantee. Again, we have seen plenty of growth since 1979, but this expansion has not “trickled down” to middle-wage workers.
The challenge is to ensure that a typical worker’s wages grow along with profits and productivity. There is no silver bullet, but the key is to make raising wages the central focus of economic policy making and to reverse decades of decisions that have undercut wage growth.

We need to start with monetary policy. In the next few years, the most important decisions being made about wages are those of the Federal Reserve Board as it determines the scale and pace at which it raises interest rates — and thereby slows job growth. Before raising rates, it is essential we achieve a robust recovery, with roughly 3.5 to 4 percent annual wage growth. This will ensure that wage growth matches productivity growth and that everyone can benefit from the rebounding economy.
Another short- to medium-term policy decision affecting wage growth is to avoid trade deals, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, that would further erode Americans’ wages and send jobs overseas.

And there are several things we can do to bolster the labor standards and institutions that support wage growth. Raising the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour by 2020 would ensure that the minimum wage equals more than half the average wage, as it did in the late 1960s. And it has been too long since we have raised the salary threshold for overtime pay; raising it to $50,000, so that anyone making below that would get overtime, would move us closer to what prevailed in the 1970s, when about two-thirds of salaried workers received overtime pay.

Protecting and expanding workers’ right to unionize and bargain collectively is also essential; the erosion of collective bargaining is the single largest factor suppressing wage growth for middle-wage workers over the last few decades. And we need to modernize our New Deal-era labor standards to include earned sick leave and paid family leave so workers can balance work and family.

Finally, stronger laws and enforcement to deter and remedy wage theft and the illegal treatment of employees as independent contractors could put tens of billions of dollars into workers’ pockets.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, wage stagnation is not a result of forces beyond our control. It is a result of a policy regime that has undercut the individual and collective bargaining power of most workers. Because wage stagnation was caused by policy, it can be reversed by policy, too.
Lawrence Mishel is the president of the Economic Policy Institute and co-chairman of Americans for Tax Fairness.

And this from the Washington Post:

The GOP is debating whether Reaganomics needs an update

Leading Republicans are clashing over a signature issue the party has treated as gospel for nearly 40 years: the idea that sharply lower taxes and smaller government are enough by themselves to drive a more prosperous middle class — and win national elections.

That simple philosophy has been the foundation of every GOP platform since the days of Ronald Reagan. Now, some of the party’s presidential hopefuls — along with some top conservative economists and strategists — are sending strong signals that they believe today’s beleaguered workers need more targeted help, even if growth speeds up. They are embracing plans to give direct relief to low- and middle-income workers; a few of those plans mirror ideas that President Obama has proposed.

Rifts are beginning to form in the party’s prospective 2016 field over the dispute.

On one end, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has built an economic agenda around tailored tax breaks for workers and families with children. On the other, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has reassured prominent conservatives in recent days that he supports a strictly Reaganesque economic approach, including lowering income tax rates and reducing the number of tax brackets.

In the middle, for now at least, sits former Florida governor Jeb Bush. This week, his presidential campaign hired April Ponnuru, a major advocate for Republicans overhauling their economic agenda to target wage stagnation and other contemporary economic anxieties, as an adviser. That followed Bush’s maiden economic speech, in which he repeatedly discussed economic opportunity. 
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) discussed what they see to be the current U.S. economy’s weak spots at a forum Sunday night. All are thought to be potential 2016 presidential hopefuls. (Reuters)
Bush has also been consulting with a leading conservative economist who wants a “radical expansion” of a tax break that benefits single workers — a group that has been struggling in the recovery.

Still, Bush has not endorsed major new policies that challenge GOP orthodoxy and is likely to try to hold on to the mantle of Reagan even while advancing new ideas so as not to turn off the party’s faithful.

The debate is ramping up as Republicans come to grips with the fact that their economic plans have not in recent years delivered the results they’d like at the presidential level.

Republicans are wrestling with the question of whether their tax-cutting message has lost potency — and what new ideas are there to deal with the twin problems of relatively slow growth and long-stagnant wages.

GOP hopefuls will speak this weekend in Palm Beach, Fla., to the Club for Growth, a group that has threatened primary challenges to Republicans who do not embrace a hard-line view on taxes and spending.

It is too early to tell what specific economic proposals most candidates will put forth. What is shaping up is a struggle for candidates’ attention among factions of economic thinkers within the party.

Reagan stalwarts Arthur Laffer and Steve Forbes recently formed a group called the Committee to Unleash American Prosperity to push candidates to advocate traditional Reaganesque economic policies.

“Our concern is that vision — what we’d call the Reagan vision — is not shared by everybody” in the GOP, said Larry Kudlow, an influential conservative economic strategist and former Reagan administration official who is also leading the group. “One reason that the GOP has been losing is that Reagan’s message has not been used.”

Republicans roundly agree that their party needs an updated economic message to improve their chances at retaking the White House. They are looking for new ways to critique Democrats on the economy now that the recovery from recession is accelerating.

Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former top adviser to 2008 nominee John McCain, said crafting policies to benefit the middle class is essential for the party’s chances in 2016. “If we’re going to play on the same turf we’ve always played on, we’re going to have a beautiful set of policies for aging white guys in the South,” he said. “That’s not going to work.”

The intraparty debate centers around the question of whether Republican policies, and not just rhetoric, must evolve along with economic circumstances.

Middle-class incomes are no higher today than they were 25 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. There is a growing sense among many conservative economists that faster growth by itself will not suffice to lift those incomes at the rate middle-class workers came to expect a generation ago.

“There’s a recognition that folks in the middle and bottom of the income distribution are in need of [new] policy solutions,” said Michael Strain, an economist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute who has pushed hard for conservatives to consider more targeted measures for those workers. “And I expect there to be an effort on the right to address that with policy. I think that’s starting now.”

The most recent GOP president, George W. Bush, signed two tax packages that cut rates from the top bracket on down — and then watched the economy deliver the slowest job growth of any presidency in the modern era.

The 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, proposed a rate-reduction plan that he promised would rev up the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, but he lost the election.

It’s too soon to tell where many of the would-be candidates will fall in the debate.

Kudlow and Laffer’s group recently met with Walker, whom Kudlow said delivered a “Reaganesque” message. He said the group will meet with “everybody” in the field.

Some contenders still appear to be finding their way to economic plans. Former Texas governor Rick Perry has met with Laffer and Kudlow’s group. He has also hosted marathon briefing sessions with economists who favored a new approach to the economy. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has given little indication of which camp he might join, several conservative economists said.

Bush walked a careful line in his first major economic speech of the cycle earlier this month, adopting the language of middle-class assistance but proposing few specific policies beyond the promise of growing the economy at 4 percent per year. He pledged to offer more detailed plans in the weeks to come.

Bush’s economic advisory team is still shaping up. But if he follows the lead of one of the top economists he has been talking with, he could be on the path to more targeted tax cuts.

“Traditional economic policy from conservative politicians and conservative economists has been about economic growth,” Glenn Hubbard, a former top adviser to Romney in 2012, said in an interview. “But that belies the question of who gets the benefit of that, and are we empowering opportunity?”

Hubbard, who many conservative economists expect will head up economic policy for Bush this cycle, has consulted with Bush and other prospective candidates but would not say if he had signed on to a campaign. He said he favors a “radical expansion” of the earned-income tax credit for single workers.

“It wouldn’t do, I think,” Hubbard said, “for a platform just to be about growth, and not about work and opportunity, too.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Students persuade House panel to give them a role in selecting school superintendent

This from the Herald-Leader:
Early Tuesday morning, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes testified before state lawmakers in favor of a study to check the health of civics education around Kentucky.

If she'd stayed at the House Education Committee meeting a little longer, she would have seen a pretty healthy example: A group of students persuaded the committee to support a change in the law so a student could sit on superintendent screening committees.

"We are the chief stakeholders in Kentucky education," said Sahil Nair, a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence's Student Voice Team and a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington. "Shouldn't we at least be considered as partners at the decision-making table?"

In supporting House Bill 236, Eliza Jane Schaeffer of Henry Clay High School in Lexington said that students spend seven hours a day in school, and "informed young people can contribute to discussions of school governance."

Enthusiastic committee members agreed, sending HB 236 on to the full House in a unanimous vote.
"I'm counting on y'all to save the world," Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, told them.

Under the bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Derrick Graham of Frankfort, a school board would have the option to add a student to a superintendent screening committee.

Fayette County school officials tried to add a student to its screening committee in December after Superintendent Tom Shelton resigned, but they discovered that state law requires each committee to have two teachers, elected by teachers; one classified employee, elected by classified employees; one principal, elected by principals; one parent or guardian, elected by PTA presidents, and one school board member, appointed by the chairman.

Supporters expect the bill to get an equally bipartisan welcome on the House floor in coming days.
"This bill was proposed, written, lobbied for, publicized, managed, and organized entirely by students," Andrew Brennen, co-founder of the Prichard Committee's Student Voice Team, posted on Twitter shortly after the committee approved the bill. "Who needs civics class?"

Read more here:

Two Wildcats vie to become a Colonel

This afternoon President Michael Benson announced four finalists for the position of Athletics Director at EKU. Two of the finalists have ties to UK (and one is a former Cassidy Dad).

This from President Benson (via email):

Dear Campus Community:

The national search to identify the individual who can take our athletics program to even greater heights of excellence has been narrowed to four outstanding finalists.

They are:  Jude A. Killy, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Operations at Miami University (Ohio); Stephen Lochmueller, Owner and President of Direct Attention Inc.; Derrick Ramsey, Director of Athletics at Coppin State University; and Christopher Walker, Associate Athletics Director for Development at Washington State University.

Each finalist will spend two days on our campus for a series of meetings and forums. An open forum with each candidate will give members of the campus community and public the opportunity to meet the finalists and hear their ideas for moving EKU Athletics forward.
Jude A. Killy
The finalists’ visits are scheduled as follows: Walker, March 8-9; Lochmueller, March 12-13; Killy, March 16-17; and Ramsey, March 18-19. In each case, the open forums are scheduled for the second day, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Business and Technology Center Auditorium (Room 049). 

Given the positive trajectory of EKU Athletics, we were blessed with an incredibly strong applicant pool of more than 60 candidates who formally sought the position. The search committee, ably headed by Nick Perlick, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, did a superb job of winnowing down from this group a very solid slate of finalists, and we are excited to welcome them to campus and introduce them to the Colonel family.

Killy has been at Miami University since 2008 and was named to his current position in 2012.
Stephen Lochmueller
Previously, he served from 2002 to 2007 at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was Director of Athletic Development Operations and Director of the Annual Fund-Panther Club. In all, he has almost 20 years of experience in the areas of athletics administration and sports information. Killy earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from John Carroll University in 1995 and a master’s degree in sports administration and facility management from Ohio University in 1998.

Lochmueller has held a variety of executive positions, mostly in the communications field, since 1989. Since April 2014, he has been President of Direct Attention Inc., a company he has owned many years. Previously, he was Chief Operating Officer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lightyear Network Solutions. Among other positions, he has served as Regional Vice President for Leap Wireless, Area General Manager for Nextel Partners, Vice President and General Manager for Horizon Cellular, and CEO and Owner of Somerset Houseboats. He earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies in 1975 from the University of Kentucky, where he also played for the UK basketball team.

Derrick Ramsey
Ramsey has served as Director of Athletics at Coppin State University in Baltimore since 2008. His previous positions include Deputy Secretary of Kentucky’s Commerce Cabinet (2003-07), Athletics Director at Kentucky State University (1999-2003), and Director of Development and Community Relations at the University of Kentucky (1996-99). Ramsey earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Kentucky, where he played quarterback on the UK football team before going on to a nine-year career in the National Football League, and a master’s degree in sports administration from EKU. He won a NFL Super Bowl title with the Oakland Raiders in 1981.

Christopher Walker
Walker has served as Associate Athletics Director for Development at Washington State University since 2008. Previous positions include: Associate Athletics Director for External Relations at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (2006-08), and Associate Athletics Director for Communications and Broadcasting and then for Development at Southern Methodist University (2000-06). In all, Walker has 20 years of experience in the areas of athletics administration and sports information. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Florida State University in 1992.

To see more information on all the finalists, visit

EKU’s new Director of Athletics will succeed Mark Sandy, who resigned earlier this year to take a similar position at Ball State University.

I encourage all those interested in meeting the candidates and hearing their perspectives on collegiate athletics generally and EKU sports specifically to attend the open forums.  This is a very important hire for the University as we continue to grapple with the ever-changing athletic landscape across the country. 

Thanks for your continued service to EKU.
Michael Benson

JCPS superintendent gets 4-year renewal

This from the Courier Journal:
Despite some heated discussion among Jefferson County Board of Education members, Superintendent Donna Hargens has been granted a four-year contract extension to lead the state's largest school district.

Hargens, who came to Jefferson County Public Schools in 2011 and makes $276,000, will get a new term running from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2019, with her current contract expiring June 30 of this year.

The terms of the contract are largely the same as her current contract, with Hargens keeping her salary. Hargens proposed deleting a clause that gives her the same percentage raise each year that teachers are given, although the new contract has a clause allowing the board to give her a raise or a one-time lump sum payment after her annual evaluation.

Board member Linda Duncan argued against giving Hargens another four years, saying that a two-year contract would be better as the board still looks for evidence that changes Hargens is making are working. She said she'd like to see more evidence that Hargens has improved communication and collaboration and district morale, among other things.

"If you just grant a four-year contract, to me, it's like saying those concerns don't exist," she said.
Duncan and others also brought up the idea of tabling the vote until the next board meeting on March 9 to give community members, district employees and other stakeholders time for input.

But board member Chuck Haddaway called Duncan's reasoning of needing community input "offensive to me" during the work session, saying that community input should have been collected by board members over the months and years. "Let's get it done and not drag it through," he said, questioning what board members were doing with their time "if you have not heard what the community says on the campaign trail (and) in your years of service."

Haddaway agreed that dealing with the superintendent contract is one of the board's biggest responsibilities, but said "we have momentum. We have a leader that is doing well."

Board chairman David Jones Jr. also pushed against tabling the vote, saying that consulting with the community "seems to me to be a bit of a dodge. ... We've got other stuff to do. We've got work to do."
Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said last week that the JCTA board has not taken a position on Hargens' contract renewal, but said the teachers union hoped the school board "would allow ample time for community stakeholders and citizens to provide input" before deciding on the new contract. He sent an email to board members on Saturday to that effect.

A vote to table the approval of the contract failed 3-4, with Lisa Willner deciding at the last second to vote against tabling and with Duncan, Chris Brady and Steph Horne in favor.

The board then voted 6-1 to give the contract extension during Monday evening's meeting, with Duncan as the lone dissent.

Hargens thanked the board for the support, noting that she has "the best job in Louisville." She later added that "I take all feedback very seriously. ... No one needs to feel I won't work to improve every day."

The board also voted Monday to hold its March 30 board meeting at Moore Traditional High. This will be the third of three traveling board meetings that Jones had recommended when he took over as chairman; Monday's board meeting was held at Central High. After the meeting at Moore, the board will evaluate to see if continuing to host some meetings at schools is a good idea.

JCTA asking for 'stakeholder involvement' before decision on Donna Hargens' future

"I'm not comfortable voting on a four-year contract extension when we 
still have concerns that we said we wanted to be addressed." 
--JCPS Bd member Linda Dunacn

This from Toni at WDRB:
The Jefferson County Board of Education is being asked by its teachers union to hold off extending the contract of Superintendent Donna Hargens to allow time for "stakeholder involvement."

In an email to the JCPS board Saturday, JCTA President Brent McKim said the association believes that "members of the elected school board have a responsibility to actively seek feedback from stakeholders and employee groups."

In order to operate democratically, McKim writes, more time should be devoted for such an "important decision as the employment of the superintendent."

School board members are expected to discuss a proposed 4-year extension for Hargens in a meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Central High School.

JCPS spokeswoman told WDRB News Friday that the school board can "vote on or table any item on the agenda, including the superintendent's contract."

The public will be allowed to address the board concerning the proposed contract.

However, at least one school board member has told WDRB News that she is "not comfortable" voting on a four-year contract extension for Hargens.

"It was suddenly laid out there and we were told there is a deadline we have to meet," Linda Duncan said. "I'm not comfortable voting on a four-year contract extension when we still have concerns that we said we wanted to be addressed."

Duncan is referring to Hargens' last evaluation, which was done in June 2014.

"Collaboration and communication is still a problem," Duncan said. "In addition, morale across the district is not in a good place right now."

Hargens, who has been superintendent since August 2011, told WDRB News in January that she hopes to remain in Louisville.

"I love Louisville," she said. "I love what we are doing in Jefferson County, and I love the progress we are making. This is a wonderful district where we are intentionally devoted and relentless about making sure we provide a quality education for every student."

McKim added that the district should err on the side of transparency, allowing sufficient time for community input for a decision that affects so many people.

'DOCUMENT: Hargens' draft 2015-2019 contract.

In surprise vote, Kentucky Senate panel approves limits on transgender students' choices

At one time in America's history, some parents did not want their children 
in the bathroom with students of a different color.
---State Sen Reggie Thomas

This from the Herald-Leader:
Without providing much notice, the Senate Education Committee on Monday night revisited a bill that would require transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex or to seek special accommodations, such as a unisex bathroom.

The bill failed to get out of committee Thursday because it did not have the necessary seven votes to be sent to the full Senate.

But the panel approved Senate Bill 76 on an 8-1 vote on Monday night, minutes after Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters he didn't know whether the bill was on the committee's agenda.

Since Friday, the committee had posted its agenda for Monday as "pending." Usually, a committee will list the bills it is going to consider on its agenda so the public will know what it is doing.
The Republican-led Senate is expected to approve SB 76 and send it to the Democratic-controlled House.

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Monday night that the House "would look at it" but that he had not thought much about it.

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said the Senate was "prioritizing discrimination." He called the panel's actions "ludicrous, willful, and mean-spirited" and contended the bill violated federal laws governing equal treatment of male and female students.

He said he did not know the committee would revisit the bill, which is backed by The Family Foundation of Kentucky, until "about 30 seconds before they did it. No agenda of bills was ever posted for public consideration."

Hartman noted that two members were absent from Thursday's committee meeting and three members were not present Monday, including Democrat Gerald Neal and Republican Julie Raque Adams, both of Louisville. They voted against the bill on Thursday.

Senate Education Committee chairman Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said he listed the committee's agenda as pending "because we had several House bills that were up in the air. We really didn't know what all would be considered."

Told that Stivers said he didn't even know whether the committee would take up SB 76 on Monday night, Wilson said, "Well, that's just one of those things. But this was not a rush job. We heard from opponents of the bill last week, and some members wanted to hear from other students."

Testifying against the bill Monday were David Kelty and his daughter Christina Kelty, a sophomore at Louisville Atherton High School.

They said some students did not feel comfortable going to the bathroom with a transgender student.
"You are putting the rights of transgender students above the rights of other students" said Christina Kelty.

That prompted Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, to say that at one time in America's history, some parents did not want their children in the bathroom with students of a different color.
"I don't think that's the same," David Kelty responded.

The bill stems from a controversy last year at Atherton, where a transgender student who was born male identified as a female and wanted to use the girls' bathrooms and locker rooms.

A controversy arose, and the school eventually adopted a policy of letting students use bathrooms based on their gender identity. The decision was backed by the school's site-based council and a Jefferson County Public Schools appeals committee.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said his measure allows all students to have their privacy.

Henry Brousseau, a 16-year-old transgender student at Louisville Collegiate School, and his mother, Dr. Karen Berg, testified at last week's committee meeting but not at Monday's.

Brousseau told the committee that he has identified himself as a male for three years but has been forced to use girls' bathrooms at times.

Brousseau said Monday he was "extremely disappointed" by the committee's vote.

His mother said they did not know the committee would revisit the bill Monday. "We were just told they sometimes do things like this," Berg said.
This from the H-L Editorial Board:

'Bathroom bill' is an unjust solution looking for a problem 

The Senate Education Committee, unwilling to let a nasty bill die a natural death, took swift action Monday afternoon to revive legislation that recalls echoes of some of our society's worst moments.

With no notice and little debate the committee passed out, 8-1, a bill to require transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
It was heard in that committee Thursday but failed to get the seven votes needed to advance to the whole Senate with two Republicans missing, apparently due to bad weather.

You'd think that might have been a sign some greater power wanted the Senate to take a pass on this most recent, likely unconstitutional, attempt to legislate the citizenry into what's deemed an acceptable mold.

Sadly, the message wasn't received.

Central Kentucky voters can be proud that Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, cast the only "no" vote Monday. Thomas led the debate last week with questions and comments that made it clear the bill, if it becomes law, will stigmatize transgender students.

Although called the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, the bill requires transgender students to declare their difference by going to separate bathrooms, whether those set aside for them, unisex bathrooms or the faculty bathroom or other facilities.

Rather than protecting the students, Henry Brousseau, a 16-year-old who has identified as a male for three years, told the committee harassment was more likely "when we are forced to use the bathroom that doesn't match our gender identity."

Requiring transgender students to use separate facilities — didn't we agree long ago that separate is not equal? — Henry said was like "outing myself every time I had to go in there."

Equally troubling is that this is a solution in search of a problem, an effort to expand state government's reach where there is no apparent need. No superintendent came forward Thursday to speak in favor of the bill. Tom Aberli, principal of Atherton High School in Louisville, which adopted a policy to allow students to use the facilities of their gender identity, said there was reason to believe that, if enacted, the bill would cause more bullying rather than less.

Aberli argued that it was best to leave policy-making to local administrators and site-based councils. At Atherton the council held five meetings on the issue, conducted extensive research and collected input from students and others through a Web-based survey before adopting a policy "the overwhelming majority of our school community" supports, he said.

To people who complained the policy was similar to those adopted in many California schools, Aberli said it was a civil rights issue, not a question of one state versus another. "The value of human life is the same in Kentucky as it is anywhere else in this nation."

Or, as Henry told the panel, "That's just how I want to be treated, like a normal kid."

The full Senate should reject this bill.
Read more here: