Some lawmakers are still steamed at Education Commissioner's attitude toward Jefferson County Schools

07/08/2013 03:17 PM

Jefferson County Public Schools have been in the public policy crosshairs as the district struggles to improve failing schools, but that doesn’t excuse the harsh words that have come out of the Department of Education, several Louisville lawmakers said Monday.

The legislative Interim Joint Committee on Education met at Seneca High School for an update on the progress of JCPS and how its leaders — including Superintendent Donna Hargens — have been working to reverse the downward spiral for some of them. The department reported in February that 16 of the district’s 18 low-performing schools weren’t making “acceptable progress.” That prompted Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday to say at the time that the district was causing “academic genocide.”

Holliday didn’t attend Monday’s meeting. And Democratic State Rep. Reginald Meeks of Louisville expressed disappointment at Holliday’s absence and his earlier remarks.

“Some of the language was so inflammatory that it appeared that he was making JCPS look like the poster child for all that was wrong with education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Meeks said.

Kentucky Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Susan Allred told the committee that she was contacted by a number of personnel from JCPS schools after Holliday’s controversial comments to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

She defended Holliday Monday and said her advice to everyone was to “prove him wrong.”

Hargens highlighted some facts to the committee which show JCPS is showing signs of progress at many of its schools.

The graduation rate has increased to 69.4 percent. The graduation rate for African-American students has increased to 65.3 percent. That’s a 7 percent increase over the last 4 years. College and career readiness increased 12 percent in the 2011-12 school year alone and the class of 2013 secured $132 million in scholarships — a $2 million increase over the last year.

One other main hurdle facing JCPS is negotiating a new contract with the teachers’ union.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel asked Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim about the progress of those negotiations, which McKim said are now in the hands of the teachers themselves.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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