I ask that you reject ANY settlement with the Kentucky Board of Education that involves takeover of a part or all of our district or removes our right to legally challenge future actions taken.
It is clear that Wayne Lewis’ attempt to “settle” and the terms by which he wishes to settle are yet another salvo in Governor Bevin’s war on public education. Lewis is part of a group of education privatizers who grandstand like they’re helping the least fortunate children of Louisville, but instead use any means necessary to undermine public education, diversity, and democratic institutions of this city. The members of the Kentucky board do not care about children. Instead they are using these children as political cover for their actions.
Yes, Lewis and the state board will tell you this is not political. But what else can you call a board of people tied together by an anti-public education ideology and close relationships in numerous educational non-profits devoted to the same?
Starting almost a decade ago, Hal Heiner began creating groups and social media presences devoted to educational privatization. One group, Kentuckians Advocating Reform in Education, included KDE Board Vice-Chair, Milton Seymore, and Commissioner Lewis, and eventually board member Gary Houchens among its directors.
In the same month, Heiner also formed the Kentucky Coalition for Education Reform with Jerry Stephenson, the homophobic Indiana pastor who has attacked JCPS for years, most recently as a part of Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition in which he worked side by side with Vice-Chair Milton Seymore. Stephenson was a member of the Walton funded BAEO that pushed for private school vouchers.
These same men have connection with the Bluegrass Institute, a think tank whose policy papers continually attack JCPS. Other board members have deep ties to private schools and out of state charters.
In short, what we have is a singular minded KY board of education not looking out to improve our public schools, but rather a board working to undermine and dismantle them in the name of charters and vouchers.
This is borne out by Wayne Lewis’ settlement offer, where we find that one of their key objectives is controlling student assignment. These so called advocates of choice want to dismantle the magnet school programs and transportation plan that give the 100,000 students of JCPS their choices. They couldn’t dismantle our magnet schools and student assignment plan with their terrible Neighborhood Schools bill, so now they’re going to do an end run with an unqualified commissioner and unelected board of education.
I know the 7 board members here. You are present in our communities and our schools daily and understand the problems we face. You were elected by the people of Louisville to serve us, and with a mandate to change the leadership and culture that led to the audit and threat of state takeover we now face. You have met that challenge head on and not denied that JCPS must change and address the problems mentioned in the audit. Unlike our state board of education, you are not afraid to take calls, answer emails, and interact with the communities in which you serve. And unlike our Governor and the state board of education, I’ve never heard you express surprise that the west end of Louisville can host things like a chess club, question whether poor and minority parents care about their kids, or publicly say diversity and the Civil Rights Act are bad things.
Dr Pollio has the trust of his peers and far greater experience than the people who will decide JCPS’s fate. He, you as a board, and the community at large deserve to have a state Board of Education that works with JCPS and the community in fixing what needs fixing, not one bent on taking over and destroying what works. That is why I urge you to reject any offer made by the state board or commissioner Lewis that involves full or partial takeover. Thank you.