Archives for category: Louisville

This is a heartening photograph showing a line of whites, apparently all female, arms locked together, defending black protestors against the police.

I don’t recall whites standing up to defend black protestors in the 1960s.

We must all stand together against racism, injustice, and hatred.

 

Gay Adelmann, Parent Activist in Jefferson County and Leader of Save Our Schools Kentucky, writes about the hostile actions of the Kentucky Legislature: 

 

Privatization or Potential Punishment: Are Louisville Teachers Being Forced To Choose The Lesser of Two Evils?

“The beatings will continue until morale improves,” seems to be the mantra of the Kentucky GOP when it comes to public education.

In the latest attack on its teachers, Kentucky’s new pro-charter education commissioner vowed to not punish teachers “as long as there are no more work stoppages.” It’s unclear whether the final day of Kentucky’s legislative session this Thursday will be met with another teacher-led “sick out.” It would be the 7th sickout in Jefferson County in a month. Kentucky Legislature has been on recess the last 14-days, resuming on March 28 for “sine die” and to pass any final legislation.

In addition to other terrible bills that pose a potential risk, nine resolutions stand ready to be passed by the Kentucky Senate, which would confirm the governor’s newest seven appointments to the Kentucky Board of education. The two additional resolutions appear to extend the length of current appointees’ service by swapping their seats (expiring in 2020) with two who would have been appointed to the new slots, possibly a maneuver to protect key players in the event Kentucky’s unpopular governor does mitt win reelection.

The entire 14-member board is now completely made up of privatization-friendly appointees from Kentucky’s charter-pushing, ALEC-backed governor, following an earlier round of appointments two years prior. Last year, the new board ousted the Commonwealth’s highly qualified commissioner, Stephen Pruitt, the day after they were appointed, and replaced him with an 5-year teacher and charter school ideologue who immediately called for a state takeover of the state’s largest district.

Serving nearly 100,000 students, and a $1.7 billion annual budget, Jefferson County Public Schools is by far the largest school district in the state of Kentucky, and the 30th largest in the nation.

Let’s ignore the fact that few, if any, of these board members have experience as educators or parents in the public school sector. In fact, several of the members have direct ties to charter schools and have been working behind the scenes to undermine public schools and/or position themselves to potentially profit from charters, scholarship tax credits and state takeovers of schools and districts.

KBE appointments subject to confirmation include Hal Heiner, Gary Houchens, and Ben Cundiff. Their names, along with that of their chosen commissioner, Wayne Lewis, can be found on formation documents and on boards of existing charter schools dating back to 2011, long before they worked their way into positions of conflict of interest or self-dealing.

Charters, vouchers, “scholarships” and myraid other hedge-fund darling investments have been the law of the land on 43 other states, so these well-funded privatizers know how to penetrate a market. And once they’re in, they can have their way with everything else they want. We know. We’ve heard this from allies in Indiana, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona, California, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Iowa, Washington State, the list goes on and on.

These folks keep telling us, “whatever you do, don’t let them in. It’s much harder to get them out once you have them.” JCPS teachers see it, and they have been literally keeping these most dangerous bills at bay this session and last. “To again fail to (approve charter funding) is pretty shocking and something we’ve never seen in any other state,” according to Todd Ziebarth, a national charter school advocate who helped craft the 2017 law.

But this fight is far from over. So what legislation is still in play that could happen on Thursday?

House Bill 358 would give public universities the option to exit the Kentucky Employees’ Retirement System (KERS). The bill passed the House where the Senate “took a problematic bill and transformed it into an outright dangerous one,” according to Louisville House Rep Lisa Willner. “The Senate version would still permit public universities to opt out of the public retirement system (KERS), and would all but require that “quasi-governmental” agencies – community mental health centers, domestic violence shelters, child advocacy organizations, rape crisis centers, and all 61 health departments statewide – exit the public retirement system altogether. The Senate version of HB 358 threatens the very existence of these lifeline organizations, and could effectively dismantle the statewide system of public protection and crisis support.” The number of Kentucky workers whose inviolable contracts would be broken would expand to nearly 9,000.

Although many legislators have assured us HB205 (Scholarship Tax Credits) and HB525 (Pension Trustee Appointments) are dead this session, it doesn’t mean they won’t continue to bring them back next year and the year after that until they pass, much like they did with charter school legislation, which finally passed in 2017. Our only saving grace has been the fact that there was so much pushback, the general assembly’s been unable to muster enough intestinal fortitude to fund them again this session. The trick is figuring out if we can really trust this latest promise, because those in the minority are usually the last to know what’s going on, and those in the supermajority have broken our trust before.

The same body that passed an unconstititional “sewer bill” on the last day of 2018 session is the same body that called a special session to try to pass it again constitutionally last winter. And now we’re simply supposed to trust them when they say these harmful education bills are dead?

But those bills aren’t the only threat in the near future. As I mentioned, charter school legislation passed in 2017, but has yet to be funded. A looming state takeover of JCPS could open the door to conversion charter schools, without waiting for any funding mechanism to pass.

Could the confirmation of the KBE appointments be checkmate for Jefferson County Public Schools? Or said another way, could a disruption in the confirmation of these appointments derail the privatizers’ agenda to implement charter schools in our most vulnerable communities? If for no other reason, concerned citizens of Jefferson County need to email, call and then head to Frankfort on Thursday to put pressure on the Kentucky Senate to not confirm Bevin’s appointments to the KBE.

Jefferson County teachers are fighting against a “solution” that has been not only proven not to work, but leads to school closures, district bankruptcies, displaced vulnerable students and increased taxes.

If I were a teacher, I would be outraged at Commissioner Lewis’ latest attempts to bully and intimidate teachers. I’d love to see teachers call his bluff and reveal their collective power over him..

But I’m not a teacher. I’m a parent, community organizer, concerned citizen and taxpayer (link:https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2019/03/26/jcps-parents-students-should-join-teacher-sickout-gay-adelmann/3269349002/) who recognized years ago that her son’s “failing” public school in a high-minority, high-poverty area of town was being groomed for a charter school takeover. And yet, here we are, six years and one helluva fight later, risking watching everything we’ve been warning folks about come to fruition.

The Friday following the last sickout, many parents also kept their children home to show solidarity with teachers who have been fighting for our students, and to exercise the only power they knew how. There is talk of another parent-led action during the week of abusive state testing. It’s time teachers and parents in these red states recognize the power they do hold, and to use it to stop the hostilities coming out of Frankfort.

Whether it’s parents or teachers doing the talking, it’s time to turn the conversation around and say to Lewis, the KBE and our state legislators, “There will be no more closures to our public schools, as soon as you stop the shady attempts to privatize them against the wishes of taxpayers and against the best interest of our most vulnerable students.”

Dear JCPS invites other concerned citizens to Frankfort on March 28 for a Rally in the Rotunda from 10 am – 12 pm. We will also have the table in the annex basement where concerned citizens like myself are happy to answer any other questions you may have about what’s really behind this movement and what are next steps.

Gay Adelmann is a parent of a recent JCPS graduate and co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky. She can be reached at moderator@dearjcps.com.

Until 2015,Kentucky did not have a charter school law. Then hard-right Republican Matt Bevin was elected governor, and he pushed hard to get a charter law passed by the legislature. But the legislature has not yet allocated funding for charter schools. Opposition has been strong and bipartisan. Now the governor has packed the state school board with charter advocates, fired the state superintendent and hired a state superintendent who wants charter schools.

Their target is Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, the biggest city in the state. Parents have mobilized to block a takeover. (I’m speaking at an anti-charter rally in Louisville on October 18, the night before the NPE conference in Indianapolis; the great Jitu Brown of Journey for Justice will be there, and Sue Legg of Florida’s League of Women Voters).

In this article, Jeff Bryant lays out the financial machinations behind Kentucky’s charter cheerleaders. It is NOT about the kids. Follow the money.

Read about the BB&T Bank of North Carolina, which is deeply involved in financing charters and involved in finding Kentucky’s Bluegrass Institute.

“BB&T has collaborated with the Koch Brothers for years in funding academic centers and professorships at colleges and universities across the country with the stipulation gifts will support teaching about principals of free-market capitalism and use the works by libertarian icon Ayn Rand. The bank has donated millions more for capitalism programs at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

“But BB&T’s investments in spreading capitalist doctrine and education reform are not strictly ideological or altruistic. The bank finances charter schools. “BB&T Capital Markets has been ranked the No. 1 charter school underwriter in the nation for two consecutive years,” claims the bank’s website, where it also lists numerous charter school properties across the country financed by the bank.

“The connections between charter school expansion and real estate development are underreported and little-understood but worth exploring. Charter school expansions in many states, including North Carolina, Florida, and New Jersey, have been accompanied by new schemes to profit off the land and buildings related to the charter organizations.

“In Louisville, locals see this scheme playing out similarly. Rob Mattheu, a Jefferson County parent and avid blogger about local schools, explains in an email, “There are big bucks to be had” in connecting new charter schools with land deals.”

Jeff Bryant has written a thorough investigative report of the attack on the public schools of Jefferson County (Louisville) in Kentucky. The report was funded partially by the Network for Public Education.

Louisville has one of the best integrated school districts in the nation. Its NAEP scores are better than those of other urban districts.

The only “crisis” in Louisville is caused by the election of Matt Bevin, a rabid Tea Party Governor who wants to seize control of the Louisville public schools and introduce charters.

A transplant from Connecticut, Bevin swept into the governor’s job despite the fact he had never held political office anywhere, running on a Tea Party inspired campaign was mostly self-funded with earnings from hedge funds he operates.

Bevin has taken unprecedented actions to remake the Kentucky Board of Education, stocking it with critics of public schools and Jefferson County Public Schools in particular. One Bevin appointee, Gary Houchens, an associate professor at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, is listed as a “policy scholar” for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a rightwing think tank. Another pick, Kathy Gornik, has served as board chair for the organization.

The Bluegrass Institute was founded with money from two libertarian networks, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the State Policy Network, and has benefited from a pipeline of dark money.

One of Bluegrass’s top issues is “education reform,” which it defines as “charter schools, tax credits, and vouchers”—all forms of “school choice” that divert taxpayer money from public schools to private entrepreneurs. The Bluegrass Institute’s staff education analyst, Richard G. Innes, has been attacking Jefferson County Public Schools for years. After the announcement of recommended takeover, he penned an op-ed endorsing it.

Fortunately, parents are organized and fighting back.

The parent leader is a public school parent, Gay Adelmann:

“Jefferson County Public Schools is a district of choice, [and] parents can look for schools and not houses,” says Gay Adelman, a white Jefferson County Public Schools parent with a student who attends The Academy at Shawnee, a magnet middle school and high school in the West End with a focus on aerospace. Shawnee has a student population that is 59 percent non-white and 79 percent on free and reduced price lunch, a typical measurement of poverty.

Adelman helped form the grassroots group Dear Jefferson County Public Schools that pushed to elect the current school board. She recently ran for State Senate in the Democratic party primary, campaigning on a platform supporting Jefferson County Public Schools and opposing state takeover. She lost but managed to garner 44 percent of the vote as a first-time candidate with little funding.

Bevin fired the state commissioner and hired one of his own choosing, Wayne Lewis, a charter zealot who is determined to grab control of the Louisville district.

But Bevin and Lewis face a community that supports its public schools. The recent school board elections saw public school supporters beat the Dark-Money candidates:

In the 2016 school board election, Kolb, a first-time candidate for the board, won an improbable upset victory against well-financed incumbent board chairman, David Jones Jr., the son of the co-founder of health insurance giant Humana. Kolb estimates he was outspent by up to fifteen-to-one, but he won because he and his volunteers knocked on over 13,000 doors.

Running as a one-term incumbent, current JCPS school board member Chris Brady was also targeted by big money for defeat, with over $350,000 from a local Super PAC that backed his opponent. He won anyway, he tells me, by “running on my record” of supporting the district and new leadership he helped put into place.

Jeff Bryant casts the battle for control of the public schools of Louisville as a battle for democracy:

But if the takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools is all about politics, it’s not a contest between “red vs. blue,” but whether democracy matters at all.

The pro-public schools coalition is planning a big rally on October 18 in the afternoon. I will be there and so will my friend and civil rights leader Jitu Brown of the Journey for Justice. We will be there to support the students and parents of Jefferson County.

 

Parents and education activists in Louisville are very upset about a quiet coup taking place behind closed door. A group of about 80 of the city’s business leaders has been meeting to decide how to solve the city’s problems, and one of them is the public schools. Needless to say, they do not trust democracy and are looking to the Republican leadership in the state to take over. The elitists are called LA SCALA, “the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda.” Others call them the Louminati, a reference to the Illuminati, a secretive group of power brokers.

Here is a summary:

Comedy, Tragedy at La SCALA
…behind the curtain of powerbrokers’ group

By Chris Kolb 

La Scala theater in Milan was founded by the Empress Maria Theresa and paid for by 90 wealthy Italians in exchange for luxurious boxes where they could enjoy the world’s finest artistic performances, including comic and tragic operas.

There is much about Louisville’s own SCALA that is comic. For instance, David Jones — Elder and Younger — and 70 of the most wealthy people in town have been brainstorming for months about how to solve all our problems. Here’s what they came up with: a Wal-Mart in West Louisville, more direct flights to the coasts and giving our barely functioning state government control over our schools.

In a city with over 100 homicides in 2017, more than 6,000 homeless children in public schools, and horrible air quality — to name a few bleak realities — what really makes Elder Jones see red is low-income citizens coming together to ask Wal-Mart to make a few minor changes to its proposed store design. I suspect Jones isn’t really upset about Wal-Mart but about normal people taking collective action to challenge corporate power. Imagine the hit to the pocketbook he might take if we all came together to fight for quality, affordable healthcare. Elder Jones also brought together Louisville’s self-professed powerbrokers to address the humanitarian crisis of the layovers he has to endure when flying to California wine country for the weekend. Satire really does write itself sometimes.

And then we come to education, which is where comic blends into tragic. Like Macbeth spurred on by his wife who is willing to throw all of Scotland into chaos in the naked pursuit of power, Younger Jones — spurred on by his father — is willing to throw our public schools and our children’s lives into the roiling tempest that is Kentucky state government. This is the same government that is unlikely to even pass a budget, has no current House Speaker due to a sex scandal, and has a governor so blinded by hatred of public schools that he tries to change the laws of mathematics to challenge the fiscal qualifications of the democratically-elected School Board. There’s a reason we continue to perform classics such as Macbeth: We remain plagued by a power-hungry nobility who will sacrifice the common good in seeking to rule over us plebeians.

Returning to comedy, Jones the Younger’s logic for a state takeover of JCPS is reminiscent of Sigmund Freud’s case of the man accused of damaging a kettle he borrowed from his neighbor. The man gives three reasons he is not responsible for the damage: He returned the kettle undamaged; it was already damaged when he borrowed it; and he had never borrowed the kettle at all. By completely contradicting each other the three reasons reveal the truth: It was indeed the neighbor who damaged the kettle.

Likewise, Younger Jones first says that academic achievement is largely determined by where you live, how much money your parents make and your race. I’m not optimistic that this state government is going to end segregation, poverty and institutional racism in Louisville if it takes over JCPS.

Second, Jones says that SCALA members are concerned about education from a workforce perspective. Is the real issue that corporate heads want more worker bees to generate additional wealth for them to capture (while wages remain stagnant)?

Third, Jones says the real problem is that state laws make it difficult for school boards to govern. I’ve been on the School Board for 13 months and, while there are always bureaucratic annoyances in any organization, we’ve been able to make significant progress in that short time. This includes cleaning up the many messes left by the Jones-Hargens-Hudson trio.

Like the neighbor who gave contradictory reasons for the damaged kettle, Younger Jones accidentally reveals the truth in blaming everything but himself: Jones found JCPS ungovernable because Jones himself is very bad at governing. We shouldn’t really be surprised. Many among the wealthy are used to making colossal messes, refusing to accept responsibility, and leaving the clean up to others. The ancient Greeks gave us a word for this level of arrogance so astounding it offends the gods themselves: hubris.

Thankfully, my colleagues and I have made tremendous strides to clean up the mess. Though much work remains, we will soon be able to turn our full attention to ensuring that every child has access to innovative, meaningful, challenging, and rewarding learning and professional experiences no matter their zip code, race, gender or native country. Anytime Louisville’s nobility wants to actually assist JCPS, I’d be happy to help them find ways to do so. Of course, first they’d have to invite at least one public education professional to a secret SCALA meeting, which doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon. •

Chris Kolb represents District 2 on the Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education and is a professor of anthropology and urban studies at Spalding University. He may be reached at: chris@kolbforschoolboard.com

The article is followed by one defending LA SCALA as a perfectly appropriate exercise of civic duty.

It’s important to appreciate how SCALA began — not in some diabolical, smoke-filled vault as our critics would suggest, but with PNC Bank President Chuck Denny and Humana cofounder David Jones, Sr. seeing the need for such a group here in Louisville. They began the process of forming SCALA by hosting a group of 12 business and religious leaders in March 2017 and asking them if they believed such a group should exist in Louisville. The response was unanimous, and the 12 attendees were tasked with informally nominating other potential members who were either CEOs or the lead decision maker within their organizations.

The organizational meeting of the larger group was held in April 2017 and the committee members were charged with listing what they personally believed are the top issues facing Louisville needing to be addressed, with the top responses being education, public safety, improved and increased non-stop commercial air service, pension reform, and tax reform. Subcommittees were formed, and members were invited to participate in various subcommittees or simply participate in the broader committee by learning more about the critical issues impacting our community.

Here is the bottom line: If the purpose of LA SCALA is to eliminate democratic control of public schools, then it deserves all the opprobrium directed its way. If it instead opposes privatization and lobbies the Legislature for greater resources and stronger public schools, then it is a civic boon. The decision belongs to LA SCALA. Stand with democracy or against it. Your choice.