Tuesday, March 24, 2009

David Edmunds on "Hot Button" editorial

The NBC affiliate in Louisville (Wave 3) featured David Edmunds discussing this week's Ultrasound opportunity in the General Assembly on their "Hot Button" editorial, which aired March 23 & 24.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Family group releases video regarding possible State House ultrasound vote

For Immediate Release
March 23, 2009
Contact: David Edmunds
Phone: 502-457-5744

LEXINGTON, KY--The Family Foundation released a video today revealing Senate President David Williams challenging House Speaker Greg Stumbo to pass ultrasound legislation on the last two days of this legislative session.

* Legislative coverage courtesy of KET.

"There is still time...and there will be other bills that pass," says the Senate President in the video. The Foundation is urging House Democratic leadership to allow a full vote on HB 241, a bill that would provide women an opportunity to view their ultrasound 24 hours before making a final decision to have an abortion.

The State Senate attached the language to a House bill that has already passed both chambers and is headed back to the House for concurrence. Williams tells Stumbo in the video, "It's coming, get ready it's coming your way." The bill will receive a vote unless it is blocked by House Leadership.

"This bill is in the House and is still very much alive," said David Edmunds, policy analyst with The Family Foundation. "The only thing blocking it from a vote is House Leadership. This is a test for the new House leadership on family issues. It will tell us where they stand."

The video is being distributed statewide in an effort to inform Kentuckians of this important legislation.

The Prichard Committee in Wonderland: When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead

In response to my recent post "The Death of KERA," Susan Weston at the Prichard Committee Blog characterizes me as "spinning wondrous tales" over the years about a KERA dragon that ravages the land eating educators caught teaching spelling and setting fire to villages caught administering multiple choice tests. The real story of KERA, she says, "has been dull by comparison."

I've heard KERA called a lot of things, but this may be the first time it has been called "dull." After disagreeing with the dragon narrative, Weston relates her own narrative--one in which everyone lives happily ever after:
KERA delivered stronger and fairer school funding, reduced political corruption, and vastly improved facilities and technology. It nurtured more focused teachers, better instructional leaders, and a big step up in justified pride in public education. We've still got work ahead to strengthen classroom work, not because the primary program, extended school services, or sustained professional development were mistakes, but because we didn’t put in the hard work to help them succeed.
I'll leave it to readers to determine which is the fairy tale.

I don't remember actually comparing KERA to a dragon, but I do remember comparing it to Alice in Wonderland. In fact, my career as a prominent KERA critic back in the 1990s began with a public debate in the Danville newspaper with none other than Susan Weston, a debate in which I compared the rhetoric about all students being equal to the caucus race in Lewis Carroll's book, an event in which everyone wins--and everyone get's a prize.

That was only one of the silly and sometimes surreal practices that were foisted on schools when the reforms were implemented. It was a bit like being in a Jefferson Airplane song. There was best guess spelling, and the new New Math, and open classrooms, practices most of us thought were discredited in the 1960s, but which those implementing KERA thought the rest of us had forgotten. The only thing missing was tie-dye T-shirts and peace signs.

I remember a retired superintendent calling me one day after something I had said in the newspaper. "You're absolutely right," he said. "We had just put the walls back up in our building that they had torn down when we were doing open classrooms, and then we had to tear them back down again for the non-graded primary program."

Oh, and I didn't see anything in Weston's tale about the year that, under the KIRIS testing system (the precurser to CATS), the best school district in the state (Anchorage Independent) was rated the worst. Not exactly a result that comports with logic and proportion.

It's a story I've told many times, but just for old time's sake, I'll tell it one more time. I went to an inservice day in 1992 at Lawrence Dunbar High School with a friend of mine. The Department of Education presenter approached the podium and began her harangue about the evils of traditional education techniques and explained why we needed to replace them with the "new" practices under KERA.

"When you learn," she asked, "do you sit in straight rows of desks, sitting under phosphorescent lights listening to a lecture? Or do you do it better sitting back on a couch, with the sun coming through the window, and talk with your best friend?"

Exactly how we were going to provide this experience for the tens of thousands of school children in Kentucky wasn't exactly clear, but I remember leaning over to my friend and whispering, "Look around the room." We were surrounded by teachers and administrators sitting in straight rows of desks, under phosphorescent lights, listening to a lecture.

To make any sense of that, you'll have to go ask Alice (when she's ten feet tall).

Or maybe I'll just take Susan up on her offer to visit her at her favorite hangout: Danville's "Hub." I suppose it is fitting that the debate over KERA should begin and end with the same two people jousting over education policy. I might even try those "magic free muffins" she mentions they sell there--although I'm not entirely sure, given her fanta

Dictionaries changing the definition of marriage

In gathering together their definitions of words , several major dictionaries are joining together politics and language in holy matrimony. Several dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster and Webster's New World College Dictionary, have changed the definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage.

If anyone feels these two should not be united in Holy Matrimony speak now or forever hold your peace.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Death of KERA

The Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 is now officially dead. The program was made up of many components, some of which have effectively been abandoned (like the nongraded primary), and others that live on (the family resource and youth services centers), but the heart of the program was always the testing system.

And when the heart goes, so does the body.

You could call this a transplant, of course--taking out a high stakes test that measures the performance of schools, not students, that uses unreliable open response questions rather than multiple choice questions, and that grades schools on subjective portfolio assessments, and replacing it with one that doesn't do those things. But it hardly seems worth the trouble to attempt it.

No. This was turning off the life support machines.

The irony of this whole thing is that those of us who fought this back in the 1990's advised policymakers to do exactly what they did today: to drop portfolios from the accountability for schools, to drop the ridiculous open response items that have not (Repeat: have not) improved writing, and give parents a test they can adequately judge the progress of their children with.

We were told we were against education. That we were not hip with the educational times. That we were not familiar with the educational research (that was really just trendy pronouncements) that said this stuff would work. That we were opposing progress in schools.

Funny. Do you hear any of that now? What was the House vote? 93-0?

I suppose I should feel vindicated, but I wonder about the Lost Generation: the children who went through the KERA system who were denied a proper grounding in basic skills in the nongraded primary program. Who were told they were learning to write but who were instead denied help in grammar and spelling by teachers who, because they were told they couldn't, were scared to say anything. Who thought they were learning to read, but denied help in sounding out words because it was discouraged by whole language advocates.

What about them?

In his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn argues that movements don't die because they were repudiated; they die because the leaders of those movements themselves die. We may have the same thing here. How many of the people who voted for the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 are still in the legislature? I'm thinking it is less than 20.

One of the people in the legislature when KERA passed was Ed Ford. Ford chaired the Senate Education Committee, helped shepherd the bill through the legislature, and assisted in its implementation. Ford one proclaimed that "it would be a generation" before we knew whether KERA had worked.

Well, a generation has passed. And we know now, don't we? Who ever thought that such a momentous action as was taken today would have been attended with such little fanfare? I'm told that that's not uncommon when they turn off the life support machines of a dying patient.

Will the last person out of Kentucky's Education Reform Headquarters please turn off the lights?

Ultrasound legislation is still alive

For Immediate Release
March 13, 2009
Contact: David Edmunds
Phone: (502) 457-5744

LEXINGTON, KY—“The Senate has proven once again that it is whole-heartedly committed to the sanctity of life,” said David Edmunds of The Family Foundation in response to the Senate’s action today to amend House Bill 241 to include language from SB 79, The Ultrasound Bill.

The Ultrasound Bill would require abortionists to offer face-to-face consultation and the availability of an ultrasound for a woman seeking an abortion. It passed the Senate 33-4 on March 2, but failed to pass out of the House Health and Welfare Committee where Committee Chairman Tom Burch has previously promised to kill it.

“Tuesday's 8-8 vote in the House Health and Welfare Committee prevented SB 79 – The Ultrasound Bill – from going to the House floor, where we were confident it would pass,” said Edmunds. “With an overwhelming vote, the Senate has now included the essence of SB 79 into HB 241, and it is headed back to the House floor.”

“Only House Leadership can stop it now. They have a second chance to do the right thing and save the lives of hundreds of babies and the heartache of hundreds of women.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Family group responds to defeat of The Ultrasound Bill

For Immediate Release
March 10, 2009
Contact: David Edmunds
Phone: (502) 457-5744

LEXINGTON, KY—“The ‘Grim Reaper’ of Kentucky’s General Assembly strikes again,” said David Edmunds of The Family Foundation in response to today’s action. “Tom Burch upheld the promise he recently made in The Courier-Journal to kill the bill; he did it by actively lobbying to bring the bill to his committee where he knew he could kill it.”

Rep. Tom Burch (D-Louisville), Chairman of the House Health & Welfare Committee called for a vote today on SB 79, The Ultrasound Bill, with limited discussion. The bill failed to clear the committee on an 8-8 vote.

“Burch’s actions today come as no surprise, given his past promises,” said Edmunds. “What is a surprise is that this new House leadership team sent this bill to his committee where Burch was intent on its defeat.”

“Last year, previous House Leadership sent the bill to Judiciary where Kathy Stein killed it,” Edmunds explained. “It appears this leadership has a new hatchet man in Tom Burch.”

“This leadership team had talked about a new tone in Frankfort, but this seems like politics as usual when the whole House is denied an opportunity to vote on this bill, thus denying women their medical ultrasound records and the opportunity to make a fully informed choice.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

At rally for family legislation, Senate President calls on Kathy Stein to apologize to the state’s foster parents

For Immediate Release
March 3, 2009
Contact: Martin Cothran
Phone: (859) 329-1919

LEXINGTON, KY—At a rally for “The General Assembly’s Covenant with Kentucky Families,” Senate President David Williams said State. Sen. Kathy Stein “owes a public apology to the state’s foster parents” for saying that the 7,000 children in state foster care are “unwanted.” In her arguments against SB 79 during yesterday’s floor discussion, Stein indicated that the state already has enough “unwanted” children, referring to those in the foster care system. SB 79, one of the bills in The Covenant, would require abortionists to give young women the opportunity to see an ultrasound of their unborn child.

Williams responded to the crowd of 150 to 200 that had gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to support The Covenant legislation that the 7,000 children in foster care are not unwanted, “otherwise there wouldn’t be foster parents.” He also added that “some mother loved those 7,000 children enough to let them come into the world to be born.”

Williams’ response came in one of several speeches made by a packed field of family groups and state lawmakers who expressed support for family-friendly legislation. The event, sponsored by The Family Foundation, was organized to express support for five bills, called “The General Assembly’s Covenant with Kentucky Families,” some of which are now making their way to the State House.

Williams said that groups like The Family Foundation and Right to Life were making sure that legislators “don’t leave their conscience and values at home.”

"From today’s rally it seems pretty clear there is significant support for this kind of legislation,” said Kent Ostrander, executive director for The Family Foundation. “It’s hard to get this many busy lawmakers to come to anything. That tells us we’ve struck a chord among the state’s policymakers.”

The rally featured 18 state lawmakers, including Senate President David Williams and Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, State Representatives John Carney, Ron Crimm, C. B. Embry, Richard Henderson, Joe Fischer, Mike Harmon, Melvin Henley, Tim Moore, Tom Riner, Addia Wuchner, Brad Montell and State Senators Vernie McGaha, John Schickel, Gary Tapp, Elizabeth Tori, and Jack Westwood.

The “Covenant with Kentucky Families” includes:
· SB 79: Legislation requiring abortionists to give young women the opportunity to see an ultrasound of their unborn child
· SB 42: The Public Decency Act, which would ban totally nude dancing in strip bars
· SB 1: Seeks changes to the state’s CATS tests that would make them less burdensome on schools and more focused on learning
· SB 68: The “Child Welfare and Adoption Act” that would ensure foster care and adoptive children are not placed in homes where there is an unmarried, live-in sexual partner
· SB 186: A Special Needs Education bill that would allow children with special needs to transfer to a school where they can get better assistance

Ostrander said he had hopes that several of these bills would be heard in the House.