Educational changes have been made by offering the chance for school choice in communities where the schools have failed for generations – with a lot of resistance. For the first time in a long time, the powerful voices of the teachers’ union, which defends mediocrity and outright failure, is no longer the voice of the day; it’s no longer being able to dictate that these kids who go to these schools are destined for failure.
In order to believe this, you have to believe that teachers embrace failure and encourage it in students. Bevin is not a part of JCPS, refuses to even engage with parents, teachers, or students from the schools, and has no idea why kids aren't hitting certain performance metrics, or what those metrics even mean. Rather than work with schools and understand, Bevin's been in attack mode since he carpetbagged his way here.
When seven out of 10 children in the African-American community in Jefferson County cannot read at grade level, we have failed an entire subsection of our inner city. That is a bad indictment on the status quo. Something has to change. When 32 percent of children in Kentucky cannot recognize text in the third grade – not just read below grade level, cannot recognize text; they are functionally illiterate in the third grade – these are little dirty secrets that the teachers’ union doesn’t want to talk about. And they will not talk about it, because then they can pretend that these hundreds and hundreds of administrators, making six figures and not touching the classroom, are somehow justified. But they’re not. We’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on administrative costs, robbing our children.
- Lack of affordable housing (which his own church appears to be working to worsen)
- Lack of transportation (which makes it easier for parents to get to decent jobs and schools)
- Lack of access to affordable healthcare (which Bevin just made worse)
- Racist economic policies
- Lack of access to affordable shopping options and healthy food
- Violent crime
- Incarceration of one or both parents
- The great difficulty of breaking the cycle of poverty
It would be nice if reporters started challenging Matt Bevin on his assertions. Maybe they should ask him to talk about how his own family, or the families in Christian Academy, Anchorage Independent, and other private and wealthy public school districts might be different than a family in poverty, and what those differences might mean in the educational outcomes for a student. Of course, that would require Matt Bevin sitting for an interview with someone that might challenge him.
We’re seeing a tremendous amount of change at the federal level already. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is truly an extraordinary public servant, and his dedication, his knowledge, his ability to effect change and move with a sense of urgency is like nothing that has ever been seen in the history of the EPA.
MG: Workforce skills are the most important criteria for business and industry site selectors. Your administration’s Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative leveraged $100 million to fund 40 workforce training programs that got more than $110 million in private-sector matching money. What impact do you hope to see and what is the timetable for seeing the benefits?
MB: This $100 million that we put out, people had to compete for that. The local high school, the local college and the local business community had to sit down together and come up with a proposal where each of them would contribute something to their application in the form of money and/or time and/or training and/or resources. It forced great dialogue, where the high school, college and business community, for the first time ever in some communities, began to talk with each other. What is the purpose of putting this money into education, in terms of workforce training, and what is it we in the workforce really need? For the first time, people were speaking face to face about this.
We had $540 million worth of applications for the $100 million that was available, so we got to choose the best 18 percent of the applications. The $100 million we put up wasn’t to build new buildings; this was to actually train people, scale programs. Dozens of them were put in place or expanded. It was matched by actually closer to about $140 million of additional money that came from the private sector and local communities. So nearly a quarter of a billion dollars is being invested in workforce training in just a two-year period.
We are developing training programs specifically for certain companies, in conjunction with local technical schools and four-year universities, sometimes in conjunction with apprenticeship programs that are starting now even with high school students. We’ve put dual-credit classes into schools so that high school juniors and seniors, and even some down below that, are able to take classes that apply to postsecondary training as well as toward their graduation from high school. Some students are now, at the time they graduate high school, also graduating simultaneously with associate’s degrees and/or certifications. And some of these certifications are stackable in things that employers are highly demanding right now.
All of this is being done to make sure we in Kentucky have the best, most proactive, most intentional workforce development training program of any state in America. Putting in a quarter of a billion in two years has already produced great results, but it’s only just beginning. We will do this again as we move forward, and these are the types of things that in time will continue to bear tremendous fruit. The proof is in the fact that more and more companies are coming here with the confidence that they will get the type of employees with the type of training that they need and want.
But if you read between the lines, you see a lot more going on. Companies are looking for highly skilled manufacturing labor, but not at the wages and benefits that those jobs paid when I was a kid. And companies are squeezing profit out of their businesses by spending less and less time and money on training their own employees. Why bother if you can get the state to pay for them? These workforce training initiatives are essentially a form of corporate welfare meant to pay for training that employers used to be willing to do themselves.
In the next question of the interview (which I'll get to in a second), Governor Bevin talks about the marketplace of jobs as it relates to programs of study. I'm curious why Bevin doesn't hold private employers to the same standards as our public universities. After all, if there are jobs being unfilled, might it mean that the job is not attractive enough for people to take it? Why aren't we telling our businesses to put more money of their own into training, wages, and benefits to make sure that these jobs are attractive and able to be filled?
Additionally, as someone who lived through the great decline of manufacturing in this country, can Governor Bevin speak to what happens when companies once again shift their jobs away from the United States? Will this workforce that we've trained be able to just move into another job, or will that highly specialized skill set be of little use?
MG: How are the state’s colleges and universities performing in their role of preparing state residents for success and in providing the private sector with the skilled workforce it needs now and will need in the near future?
MB: In certain areas very well and in other areas not well at all, so on average less than expected by the workforce. It’s why we are moving to outcome-based funding. We do invest close to a billion dollars a year in taxpayer money to postsecondary education, and it’s spread around our institutions of higher learning, from the technical schools to UK, to UofL, Morehead State, Murray State, Eastern, Northern, Western, all of them. We’re investing money, and we, the taxpayers, expect a payback.
Frankly, interdisciplinary studies or interpretive dance…there aren’t jobs out there. Not in Kentucky, not enough to justify having programs that are staffed by highly compensated faculty teaching a handful of students skills that are not needed in the marketplace. Study after study is increasingly showing even more traditional subjects are just not demanded in the 21st-century workforce. I personally have a liberal arts degree; there’s tremendous value associated with getting a liberal arts degree. But if you only study and learn for the sake of studying and learning, and you only pursue that which is intellectually stimulating but has no application capability, then you’re going to be in trouble, both as an individual and as an institution that tries to sustain itself training such people. We have to rethink how we do it, and that’s what we’re doing with outcome-based funding.
Matt Bevin really has a thing against interpretive dance, doesn't he? Was he once spurned by a ballerina? Does he have two left feet?
Notice how Matt Bevin doesn't mention - and the softball interview doesn't call out - that he has a degree in East Asian Studies. And yet somehow he was able to take that and become a successful businessman and Governor of Kentucky.
I'm curious what "traditional subjects are just not demanded in the 21st-century workforce." Is he talking about English? Maybe he can talk to a few communications people in his own administration about clear writing. History? Maybe he can talk to any number of fields about how the past is used to dissect the present and plan for the future. Dance? Maybe he should visit his own adopted hometown of Louisville and see what goes on at various theaters around town.
But it's this statement that blows me away: "if you only study and learn for the sake of studying and learning, and you only pursue that which is intellectually stimulating but has no application capability, then you’re going to be in trouble, both as an individual and as an institution that tries to sustain itself training such people."
I've never met any employer, trainer, or teacher who considers a person who studies and learns for the sake of studying and learning to be a liability. And I also have never met anyone who can say with certainty that any course of learning has no "application capability."
I have a degree in Broadcasting and Film. I made several 16 MM films using technology that is all but obsolete. I am guessing Matt Bevin would consider that a waste. But in making those films I learned several skills:
- Making the most with the least
- Dealing with workers
- Disaster recovery (I lost a day's work when the film got eaten by my camera)
- Telling a story
- Time management
And who is to say that today's class won't lead to tomorrow's insight? Consider Steve Jobs. Years ago he sat in on a class about calligraphy, a course that Governor Bevin would no doubt say was of little value. From that course, Jobs worked toward developing not just the fonts we use, but the way in which they are displayed on our computers. It's a small piece of the Apple story, but it also helped change the face of computing, where text was displayed in only a few unattractive and unevenly spaced fonts. Who's to say that today's interpretive dancer won't use techniques picked up in class to revolutionize medicine, or even manufacturing, or create the next small business that turns into a job creating conglomerate?
It is clear that Matt Bevin and his counterparts focusing on education are not interested in improving education or creating a highly capable workforce capable of meeting any challenge. Instead Bevin and his corporate friends want to create a generation of corporate drones who don't learn, think, or question, but rather simply do. Like his counterpart in the White House, Matt Bevin seems to hate education, intellectual pursuits, and critical thinking. But I suppose it makes sense. Educated critical thinkers are less likely to vote for people like Matt Bevin.