Silly Season on the Education Committee

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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At a recent meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education, various Republican members tried to turn Jefferson County Public Schools into their own personal punching bag. Unfortunately for them, their attacks on JCPS wound up boomeranging back into their own faces.

Senator Alice Forgy Kerr stated that if property values are lower in Louisville than Lexington, it must be because of the schools! Yes, of course, real estate values depend solely on the quality of schools and whether or not they have busing. Which made us wonder, what are the real estate values in Kerr’s own Fayette County?

At $165,900, the median home value in Lexington is half that of Anchorage at $295,500 — a difference much greater than that between Fayette and Jefferson counties. That must be because Fayette County schools are so much worse than those in Anchorage Independent! So when will Senator Kerr persuade her colleagues to grill Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk?

And Senator Dan Seum weighed in on how busing was simply ruining JCPS, citing African-American reading scores. What he failed to point out is that Brooks Elementary School, in no-busing Bullitt County, scored lower than African-American students at Coral Ridge Elementary in JCPS. Oops!

But if we apply the Kerr Homes Value Test® noted above, Senator Seum really doesn’t have any room to talk. The median home listed in Shepherdsville is $145,000 — $25,000 less than those in Jefferson County. Shouldn’t Senator Seum be more attentive to the clearly worse schools in his own backyard?

That brings us to Representative Tim Moore, who holds such rancor for Dr. Pollio and JCPS. Moore represents Grayson County, where Leitchfield is the county seat. Not only are home values lower in Leitchfield (median price listing: a mere $136,450), which, according to the Kerr Homes Value Test® means their schools are worse, but per capita income in the city is $15,033, while median family income is $32,398 — both only two-thirds of Louisville’s! Why isn’t Moore looking to the schools in his own backyard as the cause for this disparity in home values and income?

Then we thought – if the members of the Education Committee think it wise to use property values as a measure of school quality, why not go further and use things like crime and wage levels? Surely those are the result of the local schools, no?

McCreary County isn’t just the one of the poorest counties in Kentucky — it’s the 13th poorest county in the entire United States. With a per capita income at 47% of the national average, McCreary residents are barely more prosperous than the residents of the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, often used as the poster child for poverty. Surely, that must be the fault of the McCreary County School District! How is it that the Education Committee has yet to grill Superintendent Michael M. Cash? Does state Senator Max Wise, who represents McCreary County, not care about quality schools? And of course, this just shows what happens when you have neighborhood schools! Too bad McCreary County doesn’t have school choice like Jefferson County. Senator Kerr really should be taking her colleague to task!

Obviously, we could go further with these examples, even to pointing out that most of the school systems across the state must be worse than Jefferson County’s, since property values are lower. And of course, all those school system should implement busing immediately, since apparently children who are bused score higher than those who aren’t.

If you think this is getting silly, guess what: We agree. The challenges of education in poor counties like McCreary and urban districts like Louisville need mature, intelligent, thoughtful discussion, not easy sound-bites and shoot-from-the-hip conclusions.

But as long as our elected representatives continue to use such facile, frivolous platitudes as their answers to serious problems, we will continue pointing out how silly and useless their answers are.

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Photo by psd

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