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Bevin's Budget: War against Kentucky's State Universities

Clinton, KY. 2-10-16

Governor Bevin is sending a clear and powerful message to the citizens of Kentucky.

His budget for 2016-2018 is a war on higher learning.

The message was crafted in the blending of Tea Party rhetoric and Chamber of Commerce dogma. We knew something was up the night of January 7, 2016.

Governor Bevin gave his state of the state speech to 1,500 elite businessmen at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce dinner at Heritage Hall in Lexington.

This dinner was only for a very rich and connected group of Kentucky leaders who often operate in the shadows of power in Frankfort. Governor Bevin warned of projected deep cuts in his budget. He confirmed that he had received some 2.1 billion dollars in new requests.

Twenty one days later, at his budget address to the Kentucky General Assembly, he dropped out his planned budget cut of $650 million from a project total state budget of a $21 billion for years 2016 through 2018. One of his indented target group was Kentucky's Higher Education state universities.

This Bevin's budget would hit hardest the state Universities They would grouped in with line state government agencies for a 4.5 percent spending cut for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. After that, 9 percent would be cut over the following two years.

After fiscal year 2018, Bevin said he might consider a new funding base for the state universities. His test for any new money to be added to higher education would be if the universities turned toward more "practical courses of study" like engineering or workforce development skills.

This concept of review would be built around, "Performance-based funding", where universities are funded based on how well they produce a new breed of student who is "work ready" for factories and manufacturing jobs.

Bevin: "I want funding that incentivizes outcomes that are specific to the things people want. There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors, there just will. All the people in the world who want to study French literature can do so. They're just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayers like engineers will be, for example."

"We are going to be a state that makes things," Bevin said.

This approach to Kentucky higher education teaching seems to be a "shot across the bow" for the universities. The concept of a liberal arts degree doesn't seem to fit Governor Bevin understanding of the future.

My partner in life, Mary, has invented a new concept for translating Bevin's intention for our future. She thinks it's all about flipping hamburgers at McDonald's or an offsite parts assembly plant for Boeing.

Maybe the governor sees a future where Kentucky is a place of cheap labor filled with mindless worker bees. In his world, the profits go to the elite 1% business members of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

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