Too much of the discussion regarding the failure of Kentucky’s public-education system to prepare most of its students to succeed in the 21st century is based on addressing the wishes of the system’s adults rather than the needs of its students.
However, that public education system does not exist for the benefit of the adults.
Rather, it exists to prepare over 650,000 children in that system by giving them the knowledge and the tools needed to live productive and successful lives.
While teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and janitors are important contributors to making Kentucky’s public-education system work, their wants and wishes must be secondary to creating and advancing education policy based on what’s in the best interest of our children.
Case in point: Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has recommended a state intervention in the day-to-day management of the Jefferson County Public Schools.
The recommendation is based on an extensive 14 month-long management audit ordered by former commissioner Stephen Pruitt and conducted by the Kentucky Department of Education. The audit found more than 20 “significant deficiencies” in the district which include issues related to achievement gaps, restraint, inclusion, funding, facilities and student safety.
In a recent interview on KET “Connections,” Lewis told host Renee Shaw that he believes a KDE takeover is necessitated by the fact that the deficiencies in JCPS are the result of “fundamentally a broken system” and cannot be addressed simply by replacing a superintendent or any other individual or group of individuals.
“State management is essential in order to remedy the deficiencies that have come forward in the audit,” Lewis said. “Nothing short of state management of Jefferson County Public Schools will ensure that the children in that district are protected and served well.”
The next step in the process will be for JCPS leaders to appeal Lewis’ recommendation to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), which will make the final decision regarding a takeover.
If the KBE agrees with Lewis’ recommendation:
- Superintendent Marty Pollio would continue to manage the day-to-day affairs of the district but would be required to report weekly to Associate Education Commissioner Kelly Foster on the district’s progress in addressing the many deficiencies included in the audit.
- Lewis could fire and replace Pollio if he deems a lack of sufficient and timely progress is occurring.
- The JCPS Board of Education would perform in an advisory role during the period of time in which the district is under state management.
- Lewis by law could replace members of the JCPS Board of Education.
The Bluegrass Institute has been working with the Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition, a group of inner-city minority pastors in Louisville and surrounding areas to make the case for a state intervention in JCPS.
Following is a report we released outlining reasons for supporting Lewis’ recommendation.
While other issues have recently come to light – including disturbing revelations about children in the district’s Head Start program being neglected and abused – this report focuses on issues involving widening achievement gaps between the JCPS’ white and black students, the impact of the district’s collective bargaining agreement on the educational environment and the political dollars being spent on school board races.
Click on the image below to download and read the full report.