I recently posted two blogs about the stifling of questions during a Kentucky Board of Education meeting following some very disturbing revelations by Dr. Marty Pollio, the superintendent at Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), that the district’s busing plan had limited school choice for students in the generally minority West Louisville area.
In “Suppressing KY Board of Education questions regarding oversight of JCPS isn’t transparency” I mentioned that during the April 9, 2020 meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education, “Dr. Pollio made a stunning admission: A big problem remains with the district’s always controversial school bus plan. Pollio acknowledged students from West Louisville are — unlike other JCPS students — being denied the choice of attending schools closest to their homes, and that it’s been that way for decades.”
That highly disturbing admission regarding bias in the district’s student assignment plan should have elicited questions from the state board. But, all questions were summarily cut off by the now-removed board chair, David Karem (who was not confirmed by the Kentucky Legislature before its regular session ended and was thus automatically removed from the board).
Aside from the highly unacceptable action of the board being muzzled, Pollio’s admission of inequity in the JCPS busing plan was indeed a major problem all by itself.
In further investigating the issue of the board being muzzled, I came up with more information from the December 4, 2019 Kentucky Board of Education meeting where Pollio actually added some statistics for the more general claim he made at the more recent board meeting. I blogged about this new information in “More on question-stifling with the reconstituted KY Board of Education.” During the December meeting, Pollio mentioned that 65% of the students from the West Louisville area of JCPS were not getting a choice to go to a local area school. Instead, and without their desiring it, the 65% were being bused away to other areas of the school district, sometimes as far as 22 miles away.
Another board member then asked for a clarification about what the 65% figure really meant. In his answer, Pollio said that while less than 1% of the students from other areas of JCPS were denied their choice to go to a local school, for students in West Louisville the percentage not getting such a choice was indeed 65%.
The 65% figure apparently applied to the entire group of students from West Louisville regardless of race.
But, during the April 21, 2020 meeting of the JCPS board of education, Pollio added still more shocking statistics. The vast majority of the high school students in West Louisville who are forced to attend a school away from home that isn’t their choice are students of color. Pollio told his local board that an astonishing 94% of the high school students in color from this high minority portion of JCPS do not get their choice of school. In very sharp contrast, only 6% of the white students are denied their choices. Coupled with information from the December state board meeting, some of those students of color from West Louisville are forced to take bus rides as long as 22 miles one way each day just to reach their out-of-living-zone high school. Given the fact that these high school students are not doing this by choice, it becomes dramatically clear that the student assignment plan in Louisville has some huge inequities in it, and children of color suffer the most.
You can hear Pollio’s exact words by clicking on this link, which starts at about 51 minutes into the meeting.
As I have said in the earlier blogs, the only good news, so far, in this is that Pollio has been dramatically open an honest about finally admitting to these problems which he inherited from earlier JCPS administrations. Given that the first step in solving a problem is to recognize there is one, perhaps JCPS might finally be on the road to providing equity for minority kids who certainly have been treated more like pawns that customers, at the very best.