JCPS takeover: it’s NOT about education

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If you believe that the state JCPS takeover is about education, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Oh, the usual suspects will say the usual things about “doing what’s best for our children” and being “reluctant to take this step.” But do not be fooled. The JCPS takeover has been planned for months, and is NOT about education.

How do we know? Because if this was about education, the interim commissioner would have recognized the changes that had already been put in place, and the progress that was already occurring, and would have stopped short of recommending a takeover.

JCPS has a new superintendent with experience in turning around troubled schools, and new board members specifically elected to push for change. The school system has already acted on recommendations from the state board, implementing new policies and starting new programs. Those people, policies, and programs are making a difference, and if this was about education, a rational response would be to give them time to continue to improve.

No, this is not about education. Instead, the JCPS takeover is about two immediate goals, that are part of a larger agenda:

  • Goal #1 – Using JCPS money to get charter schools in place in Jefferson County
  • Goal #2 – Damaging or even throwing out the local teachers’ union
  • Larger agenda – Continuing the attacks on public education, led largely by Republicans

The state legislature refused to include charter school funding in their recently passed budget, noting that in a time of budget cuts it did not make sense to add funding for charters. So, if you can’t get your dream of charters funded through the budget process, a second option is to simply take over the largest school system in the state and siphon off part of their money to your desired charter partners.

The fact that the collective bargaining agreement with Jefferson County Teachers Association comes to an end on June 30 of this year is just an added bonus for the takeover leaders. Conservatives and most Republicans hate unions, and will welcome the chance to do away with the collective bargaining agreement AND damage the union itself. If they follow the path laid out by other Republican governors, they will use this takeover as a way to decertify the union completely, as has been done in Wisconsin and is under way in Florida.

As I said, do not be fooled. This JCPS takeover has nothing to do with improving education, or solving problems in Jefferson County schools. It is a premeditated, well-planned power grab, carried out by a governor and an anti-public-education cabal that see our school system as an enemy to be conquered. Monday’s announcement is the opening salvo in that battle. Let us hope that those of us who support free and effective education for all through our public schools will realize the battle has started, and rush to our schools’ defense.

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Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. He has been President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Metro Democratic Club, and has served on the Democratic Party Executive Committee in Louisville. He began blogging in 2004, and currently operates two personal blogs (BruceMaples.com and brucewriter.com). He founded Forward Kentucky in the wake of the state elections in 2015, and expanded it in the summer of 2016. He has lived in Louisville since 1992 with his wife and two sons.