So I started writing another much angrier speech. It stemmed from reading a comment from Kentucky’s new Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis asking why people weren’t outraged by JCPS rejecting a Head Start grant and the abuses that led to that decision.
I decided if he wanted outrage, I’d give him some. It’s boiled for 11 years as I’ve watched people attacking public education and public schools, not in an effort to seek improvement, but as a way to ram their own agendas through.
When you fight for public education, you get used to people claiming you have hidden agendas. I have been told I work for the teacher’s union. If only. I was in Frankfort because I took a vacation day and drove two hours round trip at my expense. I was there representing myself as a parent of JCPS.
On Wednesday, as I sat in the meeting, I was running on 3 hours sleep. I was nervous because I felt like I was going against disinterested evil. The men and women of the Kentucky Board of Education have no kids in Jefferson County Public Schools. There are only two educators involved, and both have limited public school experience. Our new educational commissioner served five years total in three separate schools, ten years ago. They all claim they want to help disadvantaged kids. But their personal histories show their racism and financial motivations are clear.
As I sat in the meeting and heard one member of a Kentucky agency lie about JCPS and how principals were hired, and then I heard Wayne Lewis talk about his strategy, my watch beeped an alarm. My heart rate was over 120 for ten minutes. I was doing nothing but sitting in a chair. My normal resting heart rate is about 60 to 65.
I left the room and sat in a chair by a window writing my second speech. The outraged one. I wasn’t sure at the time if I should give it. Right up until one o’clock I was adjusting.
But then I thought about it. For 11 years I’ve been going through this. Fighting for public education. Fighting for the idea that teachers are decent as a whole, public schools are decent as a whole, and that it’s not enough to attack the areas that are “failing”, you have to provide them with support as well. You have to identify root causes and address them if you want to improve, even if that means looking beyond the 7 or so hours a kid is in school.
These people have no solutions beyond trashing our public schools and replacing them with schools that enrich the private sector. They don’t care about “choice”. They don’t care about the education of poor and minority children. If they did, their social and economic policies wouldn’t continually attack them. If their efforts at privatization still leave kids behind, they’ll still be blaming the teachers in public schools, and saying “the system worked” when they close a charter school and leave kids scrambling for a place to attend school.
And I’m tired of giving the evil people a pass in public. You should not be able to call diversity a bad concept, question if African American students “have parents”, say teachers “murdered” students because they reject the nonsense of charter schools, or be able to eliminate an elected body that serves 1/7th of the public school students in the state for political purposes. That’s who this board is. They are not good people. They serve at the whim of a narcissist so thin-skinned that he uses a prayer service for Marshall County High School shooting victims to attack two pastors who dared call him out for his asinine prayer walk strategy for combatting violence in the West End. Not just any pastors either, but two who see the people of the West End as more than a stop for a photo op. When this Board of Education agreed to serve for Governor Matt Bevin, they said they were okay with this behavior. They said they were okay with an arrogant and corrupt Governor who calls teachers “thugs”, continually attacks public school systems, and fights reasonable tax assessments that fund public education.
When I graduated high school in 1989, teachers were respected and glorified. Public education was seen as an institution to build up, not tear down. Teachers and their motivations have not changed. They still do more good for a broader range of people at a better return on investment than any CEO, and with much more compassion. But years of political maneuvering and messaging by billionaires who hate strong public institutions has eroded that ideal. And it will finish the job unless we act to point out the truth.
The men and women of the Kentucky Board of Education do not care about public education. They are a mishmash of private school parents, friends of Bevin, radical and racist Tea Party ideologues, and people who have been working together for close to a decadent privatize public education funds. They are not working to make life better for my child or any other in public schools. That’s why I called them out on June 6th. I don’t regret it. I just hope I’m not alone.