Several Jefferson County residents reported to stakeholder advocacy group Dear JCPS yesterday that someone had left “pro-state-takeover” JCPS report cards in their newspaper slots. Their focus, thus far, appears to be East Louisville.
Never mind the absurdity of claiming that a state takeover magically and effortlessly solves the problems in JCPS. Ignore the failed logic that dividing the district up into smaller districts will somehow provide more local control than we have now. Pretend for a moment that supporting choice is what this is all about — overlooking the fact that JCPS is one of the most diverse and option-oriented districts in the state and nation.
Instead, let’s focus on the four F’s they gave JCPS and the nuanced realities behind each one of them. That means, of course, having to forget about the myriad of subjects JCPS would receive an A for, if given a well-rounded curriculum. That’s the problem with Common Core and High Stakes Testing: You’re not evaluated for what you know, or who you have the potential to be. You’re only evaluated by what’s on the test, and we all know that leads to meaningless data and reduced outcomes.
You know what else is meaningless? These F’s. Because they are subjective according to one group’s or person’s standards – but not the standards of some well-known person or group, with credibility, history, or documented research. Nope. This JCPS report card was brought to you by one or more anonymous cranks.
Not to mention, the criteria by which JCPS is being graded has not been spelled out, nor does it tell us whom JCPS is being compared against to end up with a failing grade, or whether the numbers have been adjusted to reflect district size or demographics. So, we’re supposed to be convinced the district should have a straight-F report card, according to the expertise of an anonymous crank, who can’t even tell us what the grades are based upon. These snobby education reformers apparently DO think we’re stupid!
So, for argument’s sake, let’s look at the four F’s on this anonymous, probably illegal JCPS report card.
The So-Called JCPS Report Card
“Academic Performance – worst in Kentucky?”
We visited the link provided in the footnote and found that it takes you to the School Report Card home page. Assuming you knew how to find the correct tabs and filters to locate a district ranking, you might find something that validates the claim, but according to what criteria? Which subject, grade level, evaluation, time frame, or demographic are they going by? There must be a thousand or more different combinations.
After an hour of poking around, I was not able to locate or generate any report on the School Report Card website that conveys JCPS is worst in Kentucky. However, I was able to find several reputable reports that said otherwise.
For example, in this interview, Susan Weston, from the Prichard Committee, told Insider Louisville, “Jefferson County is a little below the state, (but) it’s not a vast drop.” Or here, where “an Insider analysis of four years of state standardized test (K-PREP) data shows that the racial achievement gap at JCPS is closing at the high school level. And while the gap is widening at the elementary and middle school levels, it is widening more across the state as a whole and at each of four other large districts whose scores Insider analyzed.”
As JCTA President Brent McKim noted, other districts have bigger achievement gaps than we do. But are they being taken over? Of course not! Why not? We suspect it’s because they don’t have a $1.4 billion annual budget.Other school systems have bigger racial achievement gaps than JCPS. Why aren't they being taken over? We suspect it's because those systems don't have a $1.4 billion budget that the takeover crew can use any way they want.Click To Tweet
“Transparency – numerous secret settlements of child abuse – your tax dollars at work?”
There was no citation there, so I guess they expect us to just take their word for it. We did find a WDRB article that speaks to secret settlements during Dr. Donna Hargens’ tenure as superintendent. Not only did the article not mention any incidents having occurred since Dr. Marty Pollio has taken the reins as superintendent, it interviewed one of the victims who transferred to Dr. Pollio’s high school, Jeffersontown, shortly after her incident, who said, “(Pollio) was the first person I talked to, and he just made me know I was going to be OK.”
So, this takeover argument is to address something that occurred during the tenure of the past superintendent, when the JCPS board has already taken steps to replace the district leadership. Looks like a red herring to me.
“Head Start – US Dept of HHS found numerous”
Well, we don’t know exactly what they wanted to say here, but we know that the JCPS board recently voted to let the Head Start program go to another organization to run, while they focused on getting their core business (K-12) under control. As a parent and taxpayer who was paying attention during the discovery of the abuses under the previous superintendent, and knowing the magnitude of the risks associated with continued abuses, I applauded the district’s decision.
Those upset about the Head Start change are probably more concerned with the $15 million grant that will no longer be part of the budget they will be able to dole out to their pals once they get their state takeover.Those upset about the Head Start change are probably more concerned with the $15 million grant that will no longer be part of the budget they will be able to dole out to their pals once they get their state takeover.Click To Tweet
“Busing – costs over $100 million per year”
JCPS is committed to diverse schools and is a nationally renowned district of choice. So naturally, transportation is going to be a large part of our budget.
To imply the entire $100 million would be saved if we ended busing is a gross exaggeration. It’s also hypocritical, since these anonymous JCPS report cards also instruct readers to call the Kentucky Board of Education and tell them they support school choice. Not only is busing done to achieve school choice in many cases, providing transportation to magnet and traditional programs, the claims also fail to acknowledge that there are not currently enough seats in the West End. If we stopped busing tomorrow, where do they think these children will go to school? How will they get there? And what about the students county-wide who live further than walking distance to their school? Will busing end for them, too?
It’s true, some cost savings could be gained if we ended busing from West to East, but not nearly as much as is implied. So, if it turns out this argument is not really about cost savings, why else would some families in the East End want to end busing of students from the West End? Think about it; it’ll come to you.
The JCPS report card mail piece itself
Lastly, let’s look at the cowardice of the mail piece. They don’t have the gall to tell you who they are, or what their stake in the takeover would be. Since the last source is a link to a BIPPS article, it’s certainly someone who thinks like they do. So, it’s only fair to point out that BIPPS (the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions) is a libertarian think tank that is funded by a Koch Brothers subsidiary, the State Policy Network. Why would an outside special interest group spend so much time and resources tearing down public schools that are the bedrock of our community, when report after report after report shows that state takeovers and privatizers have done more harm than good to the communities they’ve attacked, leading to dilapidated facilities, layoffs of teachers and staff, and closures of the beloved public schools in those same communities?
If they had bothered to identify themselves, perhaps we could follow the money. Since they were too ashamed or scared to do so, we will have to guess. But one thing is for certain: There are folks out there, like these, with hidden agendas. We can’t turn our backs for one minute when it comes to protecting our public school children from predators. Stay vigilant!
Note: Since we still don’t know who is behind the spin piece, if you see anyone placing these pieces in newspaper slots in your neighborhood, please take a picture, get a license plate number, and tag Dear JCPS on Facebook. You can also send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know what part of town you saw them in.