K-PAC calls for state takeover of JCPS; Board Responds

04/24/2018 02:43 PM

LOUISVILLE- Inner city pastors and public education advocates braved the cold and rain Tuesday to get their individual messages across. At issue — A state takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools, and the renegotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement with Jefferson County Teachers Association.

The Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition, which backed Gov. Bevin in the 2015 election, is calling on the JCPS board to take public input when negotiating a contract with the JCTA and to allow a state takeover of the district. Pastor Jerry Stephenson, a member of K-PAC, says the school district has suffered immensely as a result of the previous contract with the union.

“The collective bargaining agreement with the union was one of the major hindrances that is affecting the ability of this system to educate low-income and minority students,” he said. “We are asking this board, do not negotiate that contract without full public disclosure and debate.”

The group, joined by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, say the minority and low-income students in the district are disproportionately affected by the poor management of the largest school district in the state.

Jim Waters, from the Bluegrass Institute, a right-leaning think-tank, says the collective bargaining agreement the board reached with the union in 2013 has caused schools to be unable to properly staff teachers where they would be most effective, instead placing teachers based on seniority.

“This collective bargaining agreement constrains the autonomy of principals in schools to hire the staff that is best suited for those schools.” he said. “This is about understanding that tying the hands of principals and administrators to place the best teachers where they are most needed does indeed affect the education of our children.”

The press conference comes days after Milton Seymore, a former member of K-PAC and charter school advocate, was selected to head the Kentucky Board of Education, raising questions if the push for a state run board could be a way to ensure funding for charter schools remains enact. K-PAC denies that claim.

“The funding for charter schools is already there, the issue was what is going to be the formula, “ Pastor Stephenson said. “Charter schools are a part of the fiber of public education we just have to get a legislative body with the courage to stand up to the Kentucky state union and the Jefferson county powerful union.”

Organizations opposing a state takeover of the largest school district in the state were on hand to defend the current school board. The group made up of teachers, school board members and community members, say a state takeover is not the answer to solve the problems plaguing the district, and to give the newly elected superintendent, Dr. Stephen Pollio, a chance to make changes first.

“The state takeover is not the answer. It is not the answer. We need to figure out another way that we can help out all of our children in our school system to be successful,” said Tamara Patterson, a former teacher and current Jefferson County Teachers Association employee.

Others on the board are weary that a state takeover of the education would ruin public education in the state.

“I was raised with the idea that public education is the backbone of democracy,” said Lisa Willner, a JCPS board member. “Our locally elected school board is part of that democracy. An attack on our locally elected school board is an attack on our democracy.”

Others are weary a state takeover of the board is an autocratic trend from Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Kentucky, that will result in a complete takeover of boards throughout the commonwealth.

“We cannot submit to an idea that a governor who would once again replace autocratically seven board members on the state board of education and stack that board with his appointees, to wipe out the state leader in education and replace him with someone who supports him and his ideology. And turn this board over to people of their ilk is not just wrong headed. It is absolutely dangerous,” said Dr. Ricky Jones, A professor at University of Louisville.

An audit of Jefferson County Public Schools is expected to be released soon.

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at michon.lindstrom@charter.com


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