Archives for category: Kentucky

Mercedes Schneider writes here about the decision by Willie Carver, Kentucky’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, to resign.

Carver testified before Congress and described the indignities he endured because he is gay. Carver is a highly qualified, highly experienced teacher. He loves teaching. But he is afraid to return to the classroom because of the state-sponsored bigotry that threatens teachers and students like him.

Carver told members of Congress (in part, open the link):

Identity is rarely discussed by direct means. No teachers come out as straight. They are married to opposite sex spouses whose pictures sit on their desks or whose names come up in stories about vacations or weekend trips to the grocery store.

LGBTQ teachers and students will not be afforded this freedom. They will be required to deny their existence and edit the most basic aspects of their stories, unlike their classmates and colleagues.
Few LGBTQ teachers will survive this current storm. Politicizing our existence has already darkened our schools.

I’m made invisible. When we lost our textbooks during lockdown, I co-wrote two free textbooks
with a university professor, made them free to anyone who wanted them, and found sponsors to print them. I wasn’t allowed to share them at my school. Other schools in Kentucky celebrate similar work by teachers, but my name is a liability.

I’m from the small town of Mt. Sterling, KY and I was invited to meet the President of the United States. It was not advertised to my students and colleagues. My school didn’t even mention it in an email or morning announcement.

This invisibility extends to all newly politicized identities. Our administrators’ new directive about books and lessons is “nothing racial.”

We all know how to interpret this.

Works by white people living lives as white people are never called racial.

Works by Black and brown people living lives as Black and brown people are always called racial.

The politicization of identity erases their identities.

Parents now demand alternative assignments when authors of texts or materials are Black or LGBTQ; we teachers are told to accommodate them, but I cannot ethically erase Black or queer voices.

We ban materials by marginalized authors, ignoring official processes. One parent complaint removes all students’ books overnight.

Endangered educators

My Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a campus group dedicated to discussing and helping make schools safe for LGBTQ students, couldn’t share an optional campus climate survey with classmates. I was told it might make straight students uncomfortable.

Students now use anti-LGBTQ or racist slurs without consequence. Hatred is politically protected now.

When my GSA’s posters were torn from walls, my principal’s response was that people think LGBTQ advocacy is “being shoved down their throats.”

Inclusive teachers are thrown under the bus by the people driving it.

During a national teacher shortage crisis, I know gay educators with perfect records dismissed this year.

A Kentucky teacher’s whiteboard message of “You are free to be yourself with me. You matter” with pride flags resulted in wild accusations and violent threats. During this madness, his superintendent wrote to a parent, “This incident … is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” The situation became unimaginably unsafe. He resigned.

Last month, a parent’s dangerous, false allegations that my GSA was “grooming” students were shared 65 times on Facebook. I felt my students and I were unsafe. Multiple parents and I asked the school to defend us. One father wrote simply, “Please do something!” The school refused to support us.

There are 10,000 people in my town; one fringe parent doesn’t represent most parents, who trust us.

Student suicides

School is traumatic; LGBTQ students are trying to survive it. They often don’t. Year after year, I receive suicidal goodbye texts from students at night. We’ve always saved them, but now I panic when my phone goes off after 10:00.

Meryl, a gentle trans girl from Owen County High, took her life in 2020. She always wanted a GSA. Her friends tried to establish one, but the teachers who wanted to help were afraid to sponsor it. Meryl’s mother Rachelle runs an unofficial GSA, PRISM, from the local library.

45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide this year. We chip away at their dignity and spaces to exist. The systems meant to protect them won’t even acknowledge them.

I recently attended Becky Oglesby’s TED Talk. She described surviving a tornado with first graders, how they huddled, her arms around them, as their school walls lifted into the darkness.

I sobbed uncontrollably. I realized that for fifteen years, I have huddled around students, protecting them from the winds, and now the tornado’s here. As the walls rip away, I feel I’m abandoning them.

But I’m tired. I’ve been fighting since my first day in a classroom. Fighting for kids to feel human. Fighting for kids to be safe. Fighting to stop the fear by changing hearts and minds.

I’m tired. I don’t know how much longer I can do it.

It is not safe to be gay in Kentucky or Florida or most states in the South and Midwest. Nor is it safe to be Black or Brown in the many states that have banned teaching about the history of racism.

Willie Carver has accepted a position at the University of Kentucky where he will work in student services.

Censorship and harassment does eliminate homosexuality. Nor does it turn all students white.

Lying about history doesn’t change history. It just spreads ignorance.

A few weeks ago, a story surfaced that Biden planned to nominate an anti-abortion lawyer in Kentucky to a federal judgeship. Apparently, he cut a deal with Mitch McConnell to speed up judicial confirmations in exchange for speeding up some of Biden’s judicial appointments.

But apparently the deal fell apart and Biden will not give Chad Meredith a lifetime appointment.

WASHINGTON — The White House is abandoning plans to nominate a Kentucky lawyer who opposes abortion rights and is backed by Senator Mitch McConnell to a federal court seat, citing opposition from Senator Rand Paul, Mr. McConnell’s home-state colleague.

The resistance from Mr. McConnell’s fellow Republican marked a new twist over a potential nomination that had prompted outrage on the left. Democrats were incensed that President Biden’s team had agreed to advance a conservative chosen by Mr. McConnell to fill a district court vacancy as the party is stepping up its focus on countering new abortion restrictions.

The prospective nominee, Chad Meredith, had successfully defended Kentucky’s anti-abortion law as a lawyer for the state. Mr. Biden’s plan to nominate him was made public by The Louisville Courier-Journal just before the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent that established abortion rights…

The blue slip tradition followed by the Senate Judiciary Committee effectively gives home-state senators veto power over the selection of federal district court judges for their states.

“In considering potential district court nominees, the White House learned that Senator Rand Paul will not return a blue slip on Chad Meredith,” Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said Friday in a statement. “Therefore, the White House will not nominate Mr. Meredith.”

Kentucky authorized charter schools in 2017 but never approved a funding mechanism.

The Legislature passed a charter funding bill, and Governor Andy Beshear vetoed it.

Beshear struck down House Bill 9, sponsored by House Majority Whip Chad McCoy, on Thursday. The legislation would provide federal, state and local money for charter schools, which have been legal since 2017 but have lacked a permanent funding mechanism, on proportionate per-pupil bases.

“I’m against charter schools,” Beshear said before signing his HB 9 veto. “They are wrong for our commonwealth. They take taxpayer dollars away from the already underfunded public schools in the commonwealth, and our taxpayer dollars should not be redirected to for-profit entities that run charter schools.”

Gay Adelmann, a tenacious champion of public schools in Kentucky, especially Jefferson County Louisville) reports here on the effort by Republicans to pass funding for charter schools.

She writes:

Hello friends,

I regret to inform you that the harmful charter school legislation that we’ve managed to stave off in Kentucky since 2017, (https://www.wdrb.com/news/education/revised-version-of-charter-schools-bill-passes-kentucky-house-and-senate/article_f77f2afe-203c-56aa-9b0a-a2ac6c66eec0.html) was rumored to be awakened from the dead on March 15, and sure enough, at 8:11 PM on March 21, we learned that the Kracken would be unleashed from a different committee than it was originally assigned to at 8 AM on March 22 – with less than 12 hours’ notice.

Charters have technically been the law of the land since the bill passed on the last day of session in 2017, but not one charter school had ever opened in Kentucky because they lacked the funding mechanism, or a way for “the money to follow the child.” All that changes if House Bill 9 passes this year, where it only needs a simple majority vote because 2022 is a budget year. It passed out of Committee with ease, with the chair herself safely voting “no” to appease her base, despite every speaker who showed up for that early morning meeting having spoken against the bill. Almost as if it was a bad movie, on Tuesday evening, HB9 passed the full House by one vote.

If those maneuvers weren’t suspect enough, there were some last-minute committee member swaps and peculiar posturing from the House Education Chair herself that raised some eyebrows and even got a mention from a couple of other Representatives. And, I mean, if you’re truly opposed to charters, as we’re supposed to assume by the House Education Committee’s chair Regina Huff’s “no” vote, why did you agree to bring it out of committee in the first place? Are you playing games with our children’s lives and educational outcomes and opportunities? Especially with bills that are proven to be harmful to the very children you pretend you are trying to help?

One of Tuesday night’s “Yes” votes on the House Floor (one could argue a “deciding vote” came from KY House Representative Jason Nemes, one of Kentucky’s most controversial House Representatives, who consistently earns the teachers’ union’s endorsement, despite consistently voting against teachers and students, and especially our students of color, EVERY SINGLE CHANCE HE GETS. Good news, there’s an amazing public school champion running against him in the November election. Her name is Kate Turner, and she can be found explaining her positions on charter schools and dozens of other issues on her TikTok channel here: (https://www.tiktok.com/@kateforkentucky).

I wrote this piece regarding these events, which was published in Forward KY. Please share.

https://forwardky.com/more-charter-bill-badness-call-now/

I also did this interview with a station out of Cincinnati/Northern KY.

Charter school funding bill clears Kentucky House, heads to Senate | WKRC (local12.com)

The bill will be heard in a specially called Senate Education Committee meeting on Monday at 3 PM and, if it passes, most likely will head to the Senate Floor when they gavel in on Tuesday at 1 PM. Calling and emailing them doesn’t work. We have to show up. We almost shut them down in 2018, but since we didn’t finish the job, we have to show up Monday and Tuesday.

Entrenched white “allied” union leaders that accused some of their own members of participating in “rogue groups” and “spreading disinformation” (https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2019/03/27/jcps-unions-tell-members-ignore-misinformation-rogue-advocacy-groups/3287669002/) in years past, and even had one of their lackeys write this piece that told everyone why they should not sick out on the last day of 2019’s legislative session (“JCPS sickout: Teacher says it’s not necessary for one (courier-journal.com)and not fight for pensions and for the profession, have been relatively silent this go around. What did we expect when they’ve spent more energy fighting us than they ever did privatizers? It’s almost as if they’re working for dark money groups instead of those who pay for their representation. Since ALEC and McConnell’s dark money seems to have infiltrated every nook and cranny of Kentucky’s education advocacy and communication infrastructure, we sure could use some national attention on this travesty. Our primaries are May 17 and we have a lot of people we need to replace this November, including Rand Paul (Charles Booker for KY).

#AllEyesOnKentucky #NowAreYouStartingToGetIt? #StopChartersInKY

Thanks everyone!

#KeepGoing

Gay

www.dearjcps.com

www.saveourschoolsky.org

502-565-8397

Breonna Taylor was a JCPS Graduate. We demand justice for Breonna and ALL Black JCPS Students and Educators.

Tina Bojanowski, a teacher and member of the Kentucky legislature, tweeted last night that HB 9, the charter funding bill, appears to be dead for this session. A great victory for parents, students, teachers, and taxpayers in Kentucky!

She tweeted:

HB9, the charter school bill, was pulled from the committee agenda. It’s likely we stopped it – for this session.

@TinaForKentucky

Tina Bojanowski is a teacher who ran for the Kentucky legislature after the teachers’ strike and won. She is the only active teacher serving in the legislature.

Right now, the legislature is debating whether to fund new charter schools. Tina wrote the following opinion piece. It does make you wonder when the Republican Party turned against local control, which they once championed.

I can testify to the pride that Kentucky communities feel in their public schools. A few years ago, I spoke to the Kentucky School Boards Association and, while waiting to go on, I wandered around the public space outside the meeting room. In the hall outside, the walls were covered with posters made by the children in each school district. Each one reflected their love of community and schools.

Tina wrote in the Lexington Herald Leader:

Kentucky families are proud of our public schools, and we should be. Our caring public schools staffed with dedicated professional educators are also wonderful reflections of our communities, even when there are challenging differences in ideas about the details of public education.

I would hate to lose that community identity, our local control of public schools, and the ability to have a say in how our taxpayer dollars are spent on educating our children. All of those blessings would be threatened if HB 9, pending in the legislature, is passed.

We have never funded charter schools because we have never wanted to take funding from our public schools. However, HB 9 would do just that. With every child who goes to a charter, all federal, state, and, yes, local tax dollars would go with him. And with HB 9, our school districts would even have to pay all the transportation costs.

Schools would immediately feel the pain as they transferred money out of their budget with little to no, if any, savings at all. That is because stranded costs are left behind. Lights must go on. Roofs must be repaired. Administration, school nurses, bus drivers, and other staff must still be paid. Unless large numbers of students leave, you cannot even reduce staff by one teacher. But thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars would leave the school. That means either local taxes must go up or children get less as programs are cut.

Right now, only our school districts and our mayors decide where a charter school pops up. If this bill is passed, political appointees, universities, and even nonprofits that have nothing to do with education at all will be the deciders. And they will all rush to authorize charters to cash in on the 3% cut of ALL tax dollars that will go to the charter school.

It doesn’t matter where you live in Kentucky, I am sure we all agree that we should be empowered to make our own decisions about our public schools and whether we want charter schools. Our strong sense of local control integrates parents into the education process that has created a successful and thriving recipe Kentucky students benefit from each year.

But you will never have local control over a charter school. You will never be able to vote for a charter school board member. That is because they will be appointed. Even though they will spend your hard-earned tax dollars, they can have unlimited terms, never being voted in or removed from office by the taxpayers who fund their schools. And all you need to do is to look to neighboring Ohio to see how that works out. Nearly half of their charter schools are run by for-profits, often with out-of-state corporate offices that run the schools for a nonprofit board that is merely a facade. Given the financial generosity and loose regulations of HB 9, they will rush into Kentucky. We will not have a few charter schools. We will have a tsunami of charter schools. It’s clear that HB 9 was written by the charter lobby headquartered in the DC beltway.

I ask everyone to join me in opposition to this naked financial and political power grab that robs local communities of political power, local students of education-centered schools, and taxpayers of funding for our communities’ common schools. Let’s work together to improve our public schools and say “no” to HB 9. Tina Bojanowski serves District 32 of the KY House of Representatives. She is also a teacher for JCPS and is the only active K-12 teacher in the General Assembly.

Read more at: https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article259276709.html#storylink=cpy

You won’t believe this. Peter Greene sums it up in a hilarious/sad post.

Dolly Parton created a foundation to give free books to children 0-5. A committee of the Kentucky State Senate was discussing whether to partner with Dolly’s Imagination Library. One of the senators —Stephen Meredith—expressed concern with the term “age appropriate.” He thought it might be code for something bad, like indoctrinating little children.

Then the uproar started, including an outraged tweet from Dolly’s sister, demanding to know Sen. Meredith’s IQ score. That shut down Sen. Meredith. You can’t beat Dolly Parton and her sister.

At the peak of the Teacher Revolt in 2018, educator Tina Bojanowski ran for a seat in the Kentucky legislature and won. She was re-elected in 2020. She is a teacher in the public schools of Jefferson County (Louisville).

In this video, she explains to her fellow legislators that their efforts to ban “critical race theory” are nonsensical. There are real problems to be addressed, like youth suicide, gun violence, and COVID.

She surveyed her colleagues and found that they were confused about what they were allowed to teach to comply with the law’s requirement that they must avoid any mention of racial superiority or anything that would make students uncomfortable. One teacher asked how she could teach about World War 2 without mentioning Hitler’s claims of Aryan superiority. Another said that history includes many actions that might make students uncomfortable.

Her brief statement illustrates the value of having working educators in the state legislature and the folly of state legislatures passing laws mandating what teachers are not allowed to teach.

Democrat Andy Beshear vetoed school bills passed by the Republican-dominated legislature of Kentucky. Beshear campaigned as a friend of public schools, and he came through for students, parents, teachers, and communities in Kentucky.

Blogger Fred Klonsky has the story from the Louisville Courier Journal by Olivia Krauth:

Calling them a “direct attack” on Kentucky’s public schools, Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a set of controversial education bills Wednesday. 

Chief among the vetoed bills is House Bill 563, which would allow state funding to follow students who attend a public school outside of their home district and create a form of scholarship tax credits that would siphon millions from Kentucky’s general fund.

“Can we expect more from public education? Absolutely,” Beshear said Wednesday. “But the way to do that is not to defund it.”

The measure is “unconstitutional” on multiple fronts, Beshear said, and he expects it to face a legal challenge should his veto be overriden. 

The legislation landed on his desk after passing through the House on the slimmest of margins — 48-47 — raising questions if the Republican-led House will get the 51 votes needed to override Beshear’s veto when they reconvene Monday for the final two days of the 2021 legislative session.

Beshear, a Democrat who made public education a cornerstone of his administration, also rejected legislation placing new teachers on “hybrid” pension plans.

In an education-focused press conference, Beshear signed a bill allowing Kentucky students a “do-over” year after the pandemic disrupted classes and milestones for thousands of kids. 

VETO OVERRIDE OF SCHOOL CHOICE BILL QUESTIONABLE

A provision to create tax credits to rally donations that would go to private school tuition in Kentucky’s largest areas was the main sticking point in HB 563.

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, a former educator, said the piece of legislation is “unconstitutional” and “unethical.”

A piece of the bill requiring districts to create open enrollment policies with each other was less controversial, with Beshear acknowledging the struggles some leaders of small, independent school districts face and offering to help find a solution outside of this bill.

“Governor Beshear is wrong to veto House Bill 563,” EdChoice KY President Charles Leis said in a statement. “By doing so, he chose to listen to special interests like the KEA (Kentucky Education Association) over the voice of Kentucky parents who are begging for help.”

Leis, whose group backs school choice measures, asked lawmakers to “put students first” and override Beshear’s veto next week. 

Beshear expects the legislation to be challenged in court if his veto is overriden, but clarified that he is not threatening legal action himself.

He believes the bill could be challenged on the grounds of sending public money to private schools, he said Wednesday.

It also could be challenged due to Kentucky’s larger public school funding system, which has increasingly placed the funding burden on local school districts

Kentucky’s Constitution requires the legislature to run an “efficient system of common schools throughout the state,” which several in public education contend lawmakers are not doing due to underfunding...

Beshear also vetoed legislation that previously sparked “sickouts” and the creation of large teacher activism groups in Kentucky. 

House Bill 258 would place new teachers on a “hybrid” pension plan that combines aspects of defined contribution and defined benefit plans, rather than the defined benefit plan teachers have currently.

Beshear said previously the “hybrid” plan could push away prospective teachers when states face a shortage of educators. 

Educators in Kentucky expressed their opposition to the voucher legislation that was rushed through the Legislature without careful deliberation of its likely negative impact on the state’s public schools. Nor was there any discussion of the research showing the harm that vouchers do to the children that use them or the high attrition rates of voucher schools.

Acting Fayette Superintendent Marlene Helm on Tuesday issued a strong statement before the House and Senate approved a bill in which private school tuition in Fayette and other counties could be paid from newly created education opportunity accounts.

“Quite honestly, I am dismayed that a bill of this magnitude has been brought forward this late in the session without thorough, public discussion with various stakeholders,” Helm said.

In addition to Fayette, Jefferson and Kenton counties, House Bill 563 now adds Boone, Hardin, Daviess, Warren and Campbell counties — all with populations of 90,000 — to those in which private school tuition amounts can be paid out of the scholarship funds.

The Kentucky Senate Appropriations and Revenue committee passed the bill 6-2. Later, the full Senate approved it with a 21-15 vote as did the House 48-47 in a marathon session Tuesday, the last day of the General Assembly before the veto recess. The bill will now be sent to the Governor for signing. Lawmakers will come back on March 29 and 30 to override any gubernatorial vetoes.

“This bill is dangerous. This bill is bad education policy. It’s bad fiscal policy. And its bad public policy. It does nothing to protect our students and their families or to assure that they receive a high quality education,” Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell told the committee Tuesday…

In voicing his opposition, Campbell said private schools will be charging for many of the services that their tuition already covers. The services are already provided by public schools for free under the law, he said.

Campbell said the bill prohibits oversight of the education service provider that will receive the donations to distribute to families. He said providers are not required to have credentials or background checks. He said the bill opens the door for discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and other fronts…

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said he was concerned with the bill on multiple fronts.

“It is being rushed through the legislative process with little effort at gaining input or correction of obvious flaws and predictable negative consequences which the current language contains,” Glass said after the full House vote. “This legislation is of potentially enormous consequence – which begs a more thorough approach to considering both the public school choice and tax credit aspects.”

Jim Flynn, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, said his group remains steadfast in their opposition to any privatization of public funds for education “–this bill provides that in the form of tax credits for education opportunity accounts.”

The lobbyist for the ultra-conservative, libertarian EdChoice organization, formerly the Rose and Milton Friedman Foundation, was delighted with passage of the voucher bill. EdChoice lobbies for privatization of public schools and th


Read more here: https://www.kentucky.com/news/local/education/article249964599.html#storylink=cpy