In my latest Bluegrass Beacon column released to newspapers today across the commonwealth, I highlight reports of abuse and neglect in the Jefferson County Public Schools’ Head Start program and once again called on the Kentucky Board of Education to intervene in this failing district.
Federal Head Start officials had warned the district that it would lose its $15 million grant, which funded the program, if there was another single reported abuse case. Then, two more were filed last month, adding to the 40 cases during the past 18 months.
The Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government also recently called on Superintendent Marty Pollio and the JCPS Board of Education to immediately release all information regarding those cases.
The tragic response of the JCPS Board of Education at its recent meeting was not only to preempt the feds by voting unanimously to turn down the funding, but to also take another $8 million out of the district’s general fund to expand another current state-funded early childhood program.
Since this is a district where only about half of white – and less than 15 percent of black – fourth-graders tested proficient in math last year, I will do the math for you: $15 million plus $8 million equals an extra $23 million.
Plus, considering the abuse and neglect going on in the federal Head Start program, JCPS has said nothing about investigating whether similar problems might also lie unreported in the district’s other, state-funded preschool program.
However, as interim education commissioner Wayne Lewis noted, by relinquishing its $15 million Head Start grant for the 2018-19 school year, the district also chose to “walk away from … associated scrutiny of the program.”
Louisville Republican Rep. Phil Moffett in an interview with WHAS talk-show host Leland Conway said that the strategy employed by the JCPS board noted that not only did the board preempt any federal action by refusing the grant for the upcoming year, “but they took the vote on the same night they took the vote to fight the takeover of the district by the state.”
The timing of the vote on the Head Start grant was not coincidental, Moffett said.
“What they had hoped was that the press would focus on fighting the takeover and not pay much attention to the Head Start vote,” he said.
Listen to Moffett’s full interview with Conway beginning at the 18:20 mark here; read his Facebook post addressing the Head Start and other issues in JCPS here and tune in here when he guest-hosts on WVLK’s Kruser and Krew beginning at 3 p.m. today.