By H.B. Elkins
My detractors – and even some of my friends – think I’m in the tank for the Republican Party.
They’re obviously not paying attention.
I tend to be more critical of Republicans than I am liberal Democrats.
That’s because I have higher expectations of Republicans. I expect them to be conservative, and I don’t like it when they don’t act in a manner consistent with what they profess to believe. I don’t consider myself a partisan. I am, however, an ideologue, and proudly so. I usually tell people I’m not a Republican, but I’m a conservative.
That’s not a popular thing in certain circles. There are some people who believe our elected Republican leaders, especially in Washington D.C., can do no wrong. It’s heresy to criticize John Boehner or, especially in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell. Express disappointment with something McConnell says or does and there are folks who will call you a liberal, say you don’t understand how government works, or otherwise belittle you simply because you’re tired of so-called conservatives acquiescing to liberal demands and positions.
But I’ve never been afraid to point out a bad idea, no matter where it comes from, and a couple of Kentucky Republicans floated a really bad one last week.
Senators Damon Thayer and Chris Girdler said they’d be filing a bill in next year’s General Assembly session to force local school districts to delay the start of classes each year. Currently, most school systems in eastern Kentucky go back the first week of August. Urban districts and those in less mountainous areas wait a week or two longer to begin the school year. Thayer and Girdler want to push back the starting date to either the last week of August or after Labor Day in September. They cite decreased tourism spending and increased school energy costs as the reason.
This is a bad idea. What they in essence propose is to trade the month of August for the month of June. Most eastern Kentucky districts hold classes right up until the end of May as it is, mostly due to weather concerns.
Even what my dad called a “skiff” of snow is enough to cause most rural systems to cancel classes. While state roads may be in good shape, county-maintained roads aren’t. Many school districts have snow plans, where they only run buses on main routes, but they’re hesitant to use those plans. Parents often keep their children home when buses run on a snow plan. This costs the schools money, because in Kentucky, schools are funded based on average daily attendance rather than enrollment.
When winters are exceptionally harsh, like this past one, classes can be pushed back into June even if the state grants a waiver for instructional days missed. Even this causes problems for some, and if August is basically swapped for June, those problems would be compounded.
Kentucky allows local school districts to hire teachers who only have their undergraduate degrees, but the law requires teachers to obtain a master’s degree within a certain number of years after they’re hired. Most teachers working to earn their post-graduate degree, or additional certification such as their Rank I accreditation, take summer classes. Colleges offer summer classes in June and July. If the teachers are busy in June in their classrooms, they can’t take the required college classes to be able to keep their jobs. Such a schedule change would be very detrimental to them.
When I was in school, we usually didn’t start classes until after the state fair had begun. My dad was a teacher, and we usually managed to make it to Louisville on a weekday to attend the fair before school got underway. But my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school coincided with the bad winters of 1977, 1978 and 1978. All three of those years, we got out of school for Christmas and only got a handful of days in before district tournament time in March. I graduated in the last week of May. After that, schools began starting the year earlier to make up for bad winters.
This isn’t the first time in recent months that I’ve disagreed with Girdler. Last year, he was harshly critical when the city of Somerset opened its own gas station to combat what city officials thought was gouging and collusion on prices. I thought Girdler was wrong then, and I think he’s wrong now.
Speaking of gas prices, news reports last week said the cost of a gallon of gas would be going up in Kentucky because of a BP refinery shutdown in Indiana. We, along with a number of Great Lakes states, were said to be the ones most affected by the problem.
That’s funny. I thought Kentucky was under the thumb of Marathon, and that the Marathon refinery in Ashland had a monopoly on gasoline distribution in Kentucky, and that’s why we pay too much for gas. At least that’s what Jack Conway, attorney general and Democrat gubernatorial candidate, has always said. I guess this development blows a hole in Conway’s argument.
And speaking of Conway, it’s become apparent that one of his key campaign points is going to be that his Republican opponent, Matt Bevin, is not a Kentucky native like Conway is.
Democrats must have short memories. Two decades ago, Kentucky’s governor was a Democrat named Brereton Jones. He must have been a Bluegrass native, right? Nope, he’s from West Virginia.
I guess non-native Kentuckians can only be governor when they’re Democrats, right?
H.B. Elkins is an award-winning former editor of the Citizen Voice & Times who now works in public relations. All opinions expressed are his own and do not represent the views of his current or any former employer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>. Read more at kentuckyvalleyviews.blogspot.com <http://kentuckyvalleyviews.blogspot.com>.