Ky.'s new testing program failing students, schools
Kudos to the editorial bringing public concerns to light with regard to the newest testing program being used in our Kentucky schools. As an experienced and involved educator, I can assure you that many teachers feel the same frustrations.
For years, classroom teachers have been requesting a testing system that will provide helpful student achievement data in a timely manner.
We requested two years ago a tool that would test students at the end of the year with diagnostic results provided shortly thereafter, in an effort to have effective instructional programs in place when school begins in August.
Instead, we get this "accountability system" being forced upon us and our students. It is steeped in impressive sounding educational jargon, it is cumbersome, it is layered in bureaucratic drivel, and it is a far cry from helpful except to tell teachers what we already know: that our students are missing out on the skills they need to succeed.
And, it is costing Kentucky plenty to pay big companies, like Pearson, for what we can do here with collaborative teacher teams.
It is not the schools or the teachers who are poor-performing. It is an ineffective national and state system that is sorely out of touch with the educational needs of the kids of today. Give the schools back to experienced teachers and parents of our students, along with the time to plan, implement and communicate with each other.
Then, and only then, will we see consistent growth in our Kentucky kids.
Beth Musgrave's Nov. 14 article about Kentucky's special taxing districts interested me because the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department is funded in part by our local public health tax.
That district was created in 2004 and collects 2.8 cents per $100 value of real and personal property. Those funds support basic public health activities like restaurant inspections, communicable disease control and health education that prevent diseases from interfering with daily activities.
Other funds are used to respond to disease outbreaks, participate in local disaster responses and provide support for primary care.
This office wants the people of Lexington to know that we requested a review by the Auditor of Public Accounts in 2011 and responded to recommendations to strengthen our internal processes. In addition, we have an independent financial audit every year and report its findings to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the state agencies.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health reviews our health programs, and from time to time federal public health officials review our work. As far as we know, we are in compliance with all applicable requirements.
The health department always welcomes the chance to show how it works for the public, and we want residents to know that their tax dollars work for the public and are audited by several outside groups.
Rice C. Leach, M.D.
Commissioner of Health
Lexington-Fayette County Health Department
Reform special districts
Thanks to state Auditor Adam Edelen for bringing to light the travesty of special taxing districts in Kentucky. This could help reform this system, including other forms of special districts.
Pulaski County is embroiled in a battle over the county library taxing district. The library board can and does determine tax rates though it is not elected and is answerable to no one.
If this sounds like "taxation without representation," it's because it is. Those who have supported rectifying this situation have been vilified (who can be against a library?). In fact, they are only against unreasonable taxation.
The trick appears to be that to remove the board might force closure of the library, sort of a booby-trap, if the lawyers are correct.
Similarly, the Southeastern Water Association raised water rates several months ago, to public uproar. Although that board is elected, it turns out that removing the board members is next to impossible.
Everyone realizes rates and taxes must sometimes be increased; it is just wrong that these systems have no accountability. Our legislators need to examine the system of special districts and water associations and see that they are transparent and accountable.
Hats off to Maestro Scott Terrell of the Lexington Philharmonic for his recent "Copeland's America," featuring combined choruses from five universities: Berea College Concert Choir, the Centre Singers of Centre College, the Eastern Kentucky University Singers, the Transylvania University Choir and the University of Kentucky Chorale.
Tedrin Blair Lindsay's review rightly recognized the artistic quality of the performance, but this was a news-making event as well. This was the first time in memory that university choruses from our region performed together with the Philharmonic.
I am sure this was no small feat, but it was well worth the effort for many reasons:
■ Audiences gain because they are able to experience music rarely performed due to its scale and expense.
■ Students gain from performing with a professional orchestra and with a soloist whose career is on the ascent. Students profit from the seasoning experience of performing in front of a paying audience not made up mostly of friends and family.
■ This project highlights one of the area's great assets — an unusual concentration of universities, each with vibrant arts programs.
Building stronger relationships among our professional artists and institutions of higher learning could result in meaningful internships that help build careers while enabling nonprofit arts organizations to provide greater services, which could in turn have a positive impact on the quality of students attracted to Bluegrass colleges.
As the Lexington Philharmonic's largest single benefactor, we are delighted with the return on investment Scott Terrell's innovative approach has provided, and the general public should be too.
President & CEO
Every fourth November, a mournful call wafts over the political wilderness: Where have the moderates gone? Whatever happened to real statesmen who reach across the aisle and cooperate with opponents?
Cheer up, Larry Dale Keeling. In at least one important way, modern Republicans have followed in Sen. John Sherman Cooper's footsteps. They've been totally cool with the kind of borrowing and spending their Democratic counterparts champion.
The debt that could eventually sink the U.S. economy has in fact grown faster under recent Republican presidents than under Democrats. You can't get more cooperative than that.
Unfortunately, the project to take deficit spending to heights hitherto unknown to man will probably be remembered more for its rendezvous with the laws of physics than for its bipartisan spirit.
To visualize our current altitude and trajectory, consider that when Cooper left office in 1973, our accumulated national debt — all 181 years' worth — stood at roughly $450 billion. Now we add that much to the debt every four months.
The political universe formed by this fiscal Big Bang is nothing short of astonishing. People who think we have a problem we'd better fix before it fixes itself are called extremists. The moderate, mainstream view — clarified and affirmed by the election — is that we don't need to change a thing, except tax rates on millionaires.
Let's hope our little joke gives the gods of arithmetic a good long laugh. We won't like them when they're angry.
HB 1's misplaced burden
While I support many elements of House Bill 1, the "pill mill bill," there are parts that are putting unnecessary burdens on the people of Kentucky. Recently, so that my daughter could get a refill prescription of her ADHD medication, she had to visit her doctor for a brief assessment and a drug test.
This meant that I had to leave work early and she had to leave school early. I had to pay a $45 co-pay for the office visit and now await the bill for the drug screen. This process has to be repeated every three months.
This process is flawed for several reasons. First, because pediatricians are often extremely busy, getting an appointment outside of school hours can be difficult. This results in missed education for my child and missed revenue for the schools.
Secondly, parents of these children often have to leave work for the doctor visits. For some, this time may not covered by leave. For all who have a job, this means time away from work where our employers needs us.
Third, this creates an undue financial burden for many parents. I fear it may mean that many children will go without much-needed medicine that affects their ability to focus and learn. The politicians in Frankfort really need to find a better process.
End war on weed
Colorado and Washington voters have legalized marijuana in their states while Massachusetts voters have become the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana.
It is clear that marijuana prohibition has failed, and the voters do not support arresting people for marijuana; why do our politicians, judges, police and prosecutors not get the point? They are waging total warfare against non-violent people who choose to smoke marijuana. Isn't it time that the voters of Kentucky said enough is enough?
It is time to enter the 21st century and end the failed and misguided war on marijuana smokers. Kentucky needs to stop being such a backward state. Even Russia has legalized medical marijuana. Do the people of Kentucky deserve fewer freedoms than the Russians?
The editorial page besmirching of Gen. Douglas MacArthur is disgraceful. Yes, the general had a girlfriend, however he wasn't married at the time. Author Mark Perry left that out of the column.
Yes, it is true he was hiding the relationship from his mother. How unique. With the pictures of generals George Washington, Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee, et al, you would think they all had cheated on their wives.
This is worse than yellow journalism this is deliberate propaganda and your editor should at least be reprimanded.
Sports section too blue
Overall, I am a fan of the Herald-Leader. Local and national news are covered succinctly and, despite what some writers lament, the opinion section always seems balanced.
This area should be proud of Wendy Miller, Paul Prather, Tom Eblen, Jacalyn Carfagno and especially Joel Pett.
My only complaint has been non-University of Kentucky sports coverage especially NFL and NHL. NFL takes up a mere few inches, even on Sunday. And, I don't expect much type dedicated to hockey in this area but even when there is a season, fans are fortunate to find a rare update on the league standings.
I root for UK and read the coverage year-round but a few pages less of Wildcats from every angle and more sports news of interest to the rest of the country would be greatly appreciated.
A funny thing happened on the way to the election. Your newspaper reported that there are two Fayette precincts with no voters and one precinct with one voter. I understand that these precincts were staffed with four election officers at $250 each and a voting machine. If so, what a waste.
This is almost as shameful as having a county judge-executive. Is no one in the Kentucky legislature looking out for the taxpayers?
Corrections officers have challenging jobs
First, I would like to say how sorry I am that the family of Jeffrey McKinney lost their loved one. I worked at the jail for a long time and remember how horrible it is to see someone's life slip from them and there's nothing in the world you can do.
I was trained at the jail every year to mechanically handle these very situations. It should be known however that a lot of the individuals who are arrested are not in the best of health and public safety can only do so much. Medical history is taken during intake and most individuals will not give their history because they are angry or too intoxicated to answer properly.
Being a corrections officer is not the easiest job in the world, folks, no matter what you think. You've either walked in the boots and, if not, you will never know because the jail is off limits to the general public.
I am sure that the visual that Gary Warner got was shocking but he was not in the situation, only viewing it as a bystander. And because he is an Inmate I do not believe that he could view it as a reasonable man would.
The corrections officers at the jail have always gotten the bad end of the stick form the general public because no one knows what good things they do. nor do I believe they are interested. I care; keep doing good work.