Kentucky teachers took a deep breath Sunday, and wore black Monday. The statewide black-out of Governor Matt Bevin was in response to reprehensible comments following Friday’s sick-out and teacher rally in Frankfort, in which Matt Bevin said “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.” He also said the teachers’ absence led to children trying drugs for the first time.
The Kentucky House of Representatives reprimanded the governor, who issued a poor apology in which he stated he was sorry he was misunderstood. While his comments disgusted many, what should concern Kentuckians more, is the governor’s new appointees to the Kentucky Board of Education.
Bevin appointed seven new members to the Kentucky Board of Education Monday, including Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner. He also appointed his former communications director, Amanda Stamper. He appointed Laura Timberlake of Ashland, Kathy Gornik of Lexington, Tracey Cusick of Union, Joe Papalia of Louisville and Ben Cundiff of Cadiz. Bevin’s appointees now have full control of the 12-member board.
With Bevin’s appointees in full control of the board, it is rumored Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt will be fired.
Kentucky Teachers, particular those in Jefferson County, should be fearful of this group, Heiner especially. He is an outspoken critic of Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky’s largest district, with more than 100,000 students. His criticism comes despite significant gains in achievement, such as moving majority of its struggling schools from priority status. In fact, Kentucky has seen gains since reform efforts started in the 1990s, moving from 48th in the nation to the middle of the pack, despite severe levels of poverty.
Heiner, Bevin and the 70-member Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda, or SCALA, are charter school supporters who own or have investments in charter schools, home-school programs, or K12 online programs. There is little doubt this new board will attempt to push SCALA and Bevin’s agenda for bringing charter schools to Kentucky, particularly in Jefferson County, where they could profit the most at the expense of working-class and poor Kentuckians.
This is why Louisville’s teachers must lead the fight against charter schools. Louisville teachers must become more vocal; press its union and district leaders, and the community to say no to charter schools.
As written, the law gives the power to create charter schools to local districts, which is the driving force behind an unjustified state take over. Louisville teachers must rally, educate the public, turn out during elections, and be willing to act. JCPS must lead.