Senate Bill 3 from the current legislative session was voted out of the Senate Education Committee this afternoon and now heads to the Senate floor for consideration tomorrow.
Among many who testified in favor of this bill included Jim Waters from the Bluegrass Institute, Pastor Jerry Stevenson of the Kentucky Education Restoration Alliance, Inc. in Louisville, Reverend Martina Ockerman from the Asteroids Organization of Lexington, and Martin Cothran and Andrew Walker from the Family Foundation of Kentucky. All did a great job pointing out the need for this bill using a wide variety of different examples.
Not everyone who testified at the meeting favored the bill. In particular, three members of the Jefferson County Board of Education spoke against the neighborhood schools bill, sometimes using some pretty shaky arguments.
For example, Carol Haddad, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education, made the following comments, accompanied by a palpable share of emotion. Some of Ms. Haddad’s comments:
“In spite of some of the low test scores – and we know we have to deal with that, and we are dealing with that – Jefferson County Public Schools is a great place to be.”
Well, that’s not exactly what the speakers said, but at least one committee member wasn’t buying into that obvious Jefferson County denial syndrome problem.
Senator Alice Forgy Kerr, who actually voted against a charter school measure last year, now has decided to face some overriding concerns that Ms. Haddad, and plenty of others in Jefferson County, have yet to face. Said Sen. Kerr:
“It seems to me when you look at numbers that 12 out of 20 of Persistently Low-Achieving Schools in Kentucky come from Jefferson County public schools. And, 23 out of the lowest achieving…50 schools are from Jefferson County. It (Jefferson County Public Schools) severely needs impacting.”
Kerr says we need to do something, and I agree. If not charters, then what?
So far, Jefferson County has wasted millions on busing over the past 40 years, but the schools in the West End are not materially improving, adults living in the East and West sides of town are still quite segregated, hence the continued demand for busing (after 40 years, if that was going to change, it would have) and thousands of students still get left behind.