Political leaders eager for first-class public schools had high hopes that the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) would raise the commonwealth out of the mire of academic failure.
However, after 20 years, the vision of KERA remains dim and its promise of great change largely unfulfilled as Progressive educators steered Kentucky’s education train in the direction of faulty fads and failed programs.
- Folks lauded the fantasy of KERA’s greatness.
- Judges lectured about how the Progressive Education path would lead to a superb educational experience for Kentucky’s children. Their courts rendered decisions forcing KERA upon already overburdened taxpayers and anxious teachers. Included were a multitude of new taxes, unproven education theories and burdensome regulations.
- Education reform could only happen, they claimed, with bigger wads of cash for poor districts and feel-good policies – like eliminating grade levels to “reduce the stigma of failure at an early age.”
- Concerned taxpayers and conscientious legislators were shocked that such a radical and untested experiment in public education could so quickly be deemed successful or that concerns of the cautious would be so deliberately dismissed.
- Opposing voices were squashed as the KERA wrecking ball bounded down the media mountain at full steam. Kentucky’s Progressive politicians, who controlled the General Assembly, moved at breakneck speed following the Rose v. Council for Better Education decision rendering Kentucky’s entire education system unconstitutional to the passage of KERA.
- When KERA was passed by the legislature, not only did Kentucky’s House of Representatives approve the Senate’s version without even sending the bill to a conference committee – an unusual move designed to limit public dissent – but it voted on KERA “with no debate” on the House floor.
- When then-Rep. John Harper of Shepherdsville rose to explain his vote opposing KERA, he wasn’t even afforded recognition by House Speaker Don Blandford, who later went to prison for accepting bribes.
- Limiting debate and squashing dissent in the beginning of KERA was not only the modus operandi for Kentucky’s Progressive Educators – who had a firm grip on the system (just as their political counterparts who controlled the legislature). Limiting expression of viewpoints was a hallmark in the fights that were to come over KERA’s untried experiments and disastrous testing systems.
- The media didn’t seem to care much for opposing views, either.
- Media accounts of KERA were exceedingly unbalanced; accounts often were published without a single quote from KERA opponents.
- Even now, newspaper accounts of education developments often offer little more than the view of education bureaucrats.
- Also, education reporters at the state’s largest media outlets were loathe to include dissenting voices – especially on more controversial issues. Though doing so would better serve their readers, upsetting their sources within the education system makes their jobs more difficult. Progressive bureaucrats in the education system have a history of making life difficult for out-of-favor reporters.
- Some improvement in education coverage – including more complete coverage of issues – has occurred in more recent times. Still, many education issues today can only be fully understood through an increasing number of blogs and Web sites cropping up to fill the newspaper-information void.
- Overall, the KERA fairy tale resulted in many unhappy endings for children.
- A Bluegrass Institute analysis using National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) figures indicates that since KERA became law, around three-quarters of a million Kentucky children – equal to approximately one-fifth of the state’s entire population – left middle school with inadequate math skills.
- Also, as discussed below, somewhere between one out of three and one out of four Kentucky students have failed to graduate from high school every single year since KERA’s enactment, with indications from federal officials that the state’s high school graduation rate is in decline.