Archives for category: Kentucky

I haven’t been to the Metropolitan Opera in years, due to the pandemic. In the past, I went once or twice a year. It’s a great treat.

In early January, Mary and I took our 16-year-old grandson to see Aida. He had never seen an opera. What a thrill for him and us.

The role of Aida was performed by Michelle Bradley. She is a newcomer but is already a huge star on the international opera circuit. She is African American. She was born in Versailles, Kentucky, a town of 10,000 or fewer people. She graduated from Woodford County High School, then graduated from Kentucky State University, then studied vocal performance at Bowling Green State University.

The town of Versailles, small as it is, used to have three high schools. One of them was for Blacks only, even though the town’s Black population is tiny, about 6%. After the Brown decision, the three merged, and the Woodford County High School opened in 1963.

The publication of the San Francisco Opera interviewed the phenomenal new star:

At school, she was the girl with the crooked teeth, the one the other kids teased and taunted. To spare herself the bullying, she kept her mouth shut.

Michelle Bradley

“I didn’t talk at all until I got home,” soprano Michelle Bradley explains. “I was getting picked on a lot at school. And so I just stopped talking. Until I could get braces, I just didn’t talk in public.”

But in the afternoons, before her parents returned from work, Bradley would retreat into her sanctuary: her bedroom’s walk-in closet. There, with the door closed, Bradley would sing, without fear that anyone would hear her or judge her.

One day, though, her singing would no longer be a secret. One day, it would grace stages around the world, making her one of today’s most buzzed-about up-and-coming opera stars.

Growing up in Versailles, Kentucky, Bradley remembers her mother received free CDs in the mail, with songs from Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and The Clark Sisters, a gospel group from Detroit. Bradley loved them all. But there was one singer who inspired her the most: superstar Whitney Houston.

“She was my idol. That’s who I was trying to be as a little girl,” Bradley says.

In those early years, she would tally the ways she and Houston were alike—they shared a birth month, a Zodiac sign—just to feel a little closer to the superstar. And when the movie The Bodyguard came out, with Houston in the starring role, Bradley watched it over and over.

But trying to sing big, powerful ballads like Houston did in a closet made discretion difficult. Bradley had three brothers, two older and one younger. And like many a pesky sibling, Bradley’s younger brother was all too eager to spill the beans on his sister’s secret hobby.

“Mom, Dad, Tammy likes to sing in the closet! Tammy likes to sing in the closet,” she remembers him shouting, using the name she’s called at home.

Even with her parents, Bradley only spoke when spoken to. She was shy. Her parents could hardly believe she had a secret pastime singing. They called her into the living room and asked her to perform something. Naturally, Bradley chose a Houston song: “I Love the Lord” from The Preacher’s Wife.

“After that, my parents had me up singing at church services and everything else,” Bradley says. “It just started from there.”

Bradley had shown musical talent even from a young age. At Kmart, while her mother did the shopping, an 8-year-old Bradley would park herself in the aisle with all the musical equipment: “That was back when they had all the keyboards sitting out and had them all plugged up. Ooh, that was fun!”

She had no problem finding the keys to play the theme songs for kids’ shows like Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. “I really don’t know how I did it,” Bradley says. “I loved my little cartoons, and so I would hear that and then I could sing it or play it. I just needed to hear it, and I had it.”

Neither of Bradley’s parents had studied music, but both loved to sing. They had met during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, two of the first Black students to integrate their Kentucky high school. Bradley’s father passed her mother a note that read, “I want to be your man.” They sang together in church choirs ever since they started dating.

It was with their help that Bradley started to overcome her shyness. Her father, a police officer, was a deacon at Polk Memorial Baptist Church. Her mother continued to sing in the church choir. Bradley started by learning to play services with the church pianist. By high school, she could carry a whole service.

And when, at age 14 or 15, she started singing in public, Bradley’s parents were always there, cheering her on. “Honestly, that’s who I would focus on when I was singing. I would look at them if I got nervous. So that helped me a lot. They helped me a lot.”

Soon, Bradley had the confidence to sing at school pep rallies and Christmas parties. “When I started doing that, when I started singing at school, people stopped picking on me. I was going from, ‘Hey, a crooked-tooth girl’ to ‘Hey, can you come sing for us?’”

It was the start of something great. Bradley would go on to graduate from the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Her voice won her awards galore—from the Leonie Rysanek Award to the grand prize at the Marilyn Horne Song Competition—and she toured Europe, performing in great opera houses from Berlin to Vienna to Paris and beyond.

Now, she’s taking the U.S. by storm. This past fall, she starred as the heroine Liù in the Metropolitan Opera’s Turandot, and in March, she makes her debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as the title character in Tosca. Then, she joins San Francisco Opera for its Centennial Season, making her inaugural appearance in the company’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.

Bradley frequently visits Houston, because that’s where her voice teacher, Lois Alba, lives. When the pandemic closed down everything, including opera, she stayed with her family in Versailles for eight or nine months. She practiced at Kentucky State and the local church.

During that time, she got requests to sing virtually. She found that the best acoustics in the house was in the bathroom. So she would get dressed up in her regalia and sing at an angle that didn’t show the toilet.

When she was in high school, she thought she might one day be a music teacher or choir director. But in her freshman year at Kentucky State, her voice teacher, AndrewSmith, told her she had the voice to sing opera and encouraged her. She “just fell in love with it.” He showed her Turandot on a VHS, the first opera ever for her and she was immediately transfixed. Mr. Smith also gave her a CD of Leontyne Price, and Michelle was star struck.

It was like when I was a little girl listening to Whitney Houston, except this was an opera singer. I heard that voice and I don’t know what inside me said, “That’s me. I can do that.” But hearing one of the greatest voices of our time, I said, “I can do that too.” I still, to this day, don’t know where that came from. Or maybe I do know where it came from. But that was really my first thought: that I can do this. I can sound like that. It’s like I found a home.

From Versailles, Kentucky, to the Metropolitan Opera!

What a remarkable story, and what a wonderful voice!

Andy Beshear was elected Governor of Kentucky in 2019 against Matt Bevin, a hard-right Republican who supported charters and vouchers and fought to reorganize teachers’ pension fund. Beshear, who was State Attorney General, successfully blocked Bevin’s efforts to harm teachers’ pensions.

Andy Beshear is the son of a Kentucky Governor, Steve Beshear (Governor from 2007-2015), and a graduate of Henry Clay High School in Lexington. Andy ran on a program championing public schools. He chose a teacher, Jacqueline Coleman, as his running mate.

Beshear narrowly beat Bevin, and he and Coleman are the only elected Democrats at the state level (remember, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are Kentucky’s Senators).

He is running for re-election this year. He leads the polls over all his GOP competitors. His favorability rating is about 60%.

Last year, the legislature passed a bill to authorize charter schools. Governor Beshear vetoed it.

Please listen to his message when he vetoed it.

This is how Democrats win election. By speaking to the 85-90% of people whose children are in public schools and to the 90% who graduated public schools. They want better schools. They like their schools and their teachers. Andy Beshear knows it.

When Republican Matt Bevin was Governor of Kentucky, the state legislature passed a bill in 2017 authorizing charter schools. The law mandated that Louisville open a charter school. When it came time to set up a funding mechanism for charters, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear vetoed it.

When it came time to open a charter school, no one applied. The usual chains were not interested in opening a charter without funding.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported:

Last year, Kentucky lawmakers demanded that school district leaders in Louisville seek and approve at least one application for a charter school in 2023.

Just one problem: No one applied.

Jefferson County Public Schools’ charter school information portal shows just one group formally notified the district of their intent to apply. The group, however, did not end up actually doing that.

Kentucky Department of Education spokesperson Toni Konz Tatman similarly confirmed Thursday no one applied to open a charter school in Northern Kentucky – the second location mandated to have a charter. District leaders in that region get until July 1, 2024 under state law.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Kentucky declared a voucher program unconstitutional. The legislature is controlled by Republicans, the Governor is a Democrat. The ruling was met with delight by friends of public schools.

A Kentucky Supreme Court judge struck down the state’s so-called school choice program Thursday.

The state’s highest court unanimously ruled House Bill 563, officially called the Education Opportunity Account Act, as unconstitutional.

The legislation creates an almost dollar-for-dollar tax credit for Kentuckians who donate to scholarship-granting educational nonprofit organizations.

The measure sparked controversy last year and narrowly passed the Kentucky General Assembly with a 48-47 vote in the House. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vetoed the bill, but both the state House and Senate overrode the veto.

Opponents of the bill argued the measure would divert tax money from Kentucky public schools, while supporters said the measure would help open up new educational opportunities for families.

In the ruling, judges agreed with the bill’s critics, stating that the substance of the bill was “obvious.”

“The Commonwealth may not be sending tax revenues directly to fund nonpublic schools’ tuition (or other nonpublic school costs) but it most assuredly is raising a ‘sum… for education other than in common schools,” the ruling states.

Eddie Campbell, president of the Kentucky Education Association, a labor group that represents thousands of educators in the state, applauded the court’s decision, calling the ruling a “victory” for the state’s public schools and public school students.

“It’s always been clear to the plaintiffs and their supporters that the Kentucky Constitution prohibits any attempt to divert tax dollars from our public schools and students without putting the question to voters,” Campbell said in a statement.

“We simply can’t afford to support two different education systems — one private and one public — on the taxpayers’ dime, and this ruling supports that concern. This decision is proof that the courts continue to serve as an important check against legislative overreach,” he added.

The Kentucky legislature enacted a voucher law limited to urban districts. Rural districts did not want vouchers.

Today that law was rejected by the state’s highest court.

First, the law was limited to only a few districts.

But most important:

The circuit court also held that the EOA Act violates Section 184 of the Kentucky Constitution which provides that “no sum shall be raised or collected for education other than in common schools until the question of taxation is submitted to the legal voters.” Applying the plain language of this section, the income tax credit raises money for nonpublic education and its characterization as a tax credit rather than an appropriation is immaterial. The circuit court cited Commonwealth v. O’Harrah, 262 S.W.2d 385, 389 (Ky. 1953), for the long-standing principle that “[i]n appraising the validity of the statute we must look through the form of the statute to the substance of what it does.” Every dollar raised under the EOA program to fund the AGOs is raised by tax credits which diminish the tax revenue received to defray the necessary expenses of government…

Finally, the circuit court concluded that the factual record necessary to consideration of the constitutional issues raised by Sections 3 and 171 of the Kentucky Constitution was not yet developed. Sections 3 and 171 prohibit payment of public money “to any man or set of men, except in consideration of public services,” and require principles of public purpose, uniformity, and equality in levying taxes. Likewise, the court deemed the record is underdeveloped on the issues pertaining to Sections 183 and 186 of the Kentucky Constitution, which require the Kentucky General Assembly to provide for “an efficient system of common schools” that is adequately and equitably funded, and that “[a]ll funds accruing to the school fund shall be used for the maintenance of the public schools of the Commonwealth, and for no other purpose.” Because the record contains no discovery, depositions, or expert testimony to establish whether the EOA Act is consistent with these constitutional requirements, the court denied summary judgment on these issues.

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, ( 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: (

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

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

Charter school funding bill clears Kentucky House, heads to Senate | WKRC (

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” ( 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 ( 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!




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.