The potential state takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools is unjustified and unethical. It also warrants a work-stoppage, not only by JCPS, but the entire state.
Governor Matt Bevin’s war on public education affects the entire state, and a state takeover would have greater implications for education in Kentucky than reforming the pension system or funding public schools. It gives a handful of unelected individuals and our governor carte blanche over public education in the state.
To create the scenario for a state takeover, Bevin has appointed 11 of the 12 members of the Kentucky Board of Education, which forced out Commissioner Stephen Pruitt, despite giving him a glowing evaluation prior. Pruitt was not willing to suggest a takeover, but state assistance, so he was ousted. Meanwhile, Wayne Lewis, a proponent of a state takeover, replaces Pruitt.
The potential takeover is about one thing, and one thing only – to give the state control of charter schools and who gets to run these charter schools. The privatization of public education is high on Bevin’s agenda and his motives are questionable, at best. He is using the Kentucky Pastors Action Coalition as pawns to promote charter schools. However, if this group had done its research, it would know that high-poverty and minority students in charter schools or voucher programs have been victimized, left behind, and perform worse than their traditional school counterparts.
The reality is a state takeover isn’t justified. JCPS possesses some of the best schools in Kentucky and it’s lower-performing schools are due to the fact that Louisville is a large urban area with more disadvantaged students than any other district in the state. The villain in this equation is not public schools, but poverty.
During the past decade, JCPS has moved most of its low-performing schools out of priority status. JCPS has a new superintendent, Dr. Marty Polio, who should be given the opportunity to implement his policies and changes.
We can see through the fog. This isn’t about school choice. JCPS has many magnet schools and offers more school choice than most districts, including those with charters. This isn’t about improving student achievement, or helping low-income and minority students. This is about creating profits for private investors of charter schools. Under the state law for charter schools, individual districts have control of how and what organization implements a charter school, and Matt Bevin wants to control those decisions.
A state takeover would erode the quality of teachers in the classroom further. Already under constant attack by our governor, teachers’ pensions have worsened, teachers had to protest in Frankfort for more funding, and now a takeover would threaten the Jefferson County Teachers Association. Bevin’s goal is to weaken the union, which would drive more teachers out of the profession and lead to a greater shortage. This would allow the state to drive down teacher pay, higher less qualified teachers, and even hire unlicensed teachers in charter schools.
None of this is good for our teachers, schools, and children. This is why if the state attempts a takeover, our school board, our metro council, Superintendent Polio, teachers of JCPS, parents, and the general public should do everything within their power to stop it, including a work stoppage, which could be approved by Dr. Polio and the school board.
If not a work-stoppage, then a state-wide strike should be considered. This is not just a JCPS issue. This move could impact the entire state. If JCPS is taken over, the dominoes will fall. Fayette County and many of the poorer districts would be taken over and forced to privatize their school systems.