Especially when there’s admission that West End families in Louisville never had choice under the busing plan and unusual claims are made about funding
The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) held a teleconferenced meeting on April 9, 2020 that included an update from Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) Superintendent Marty Pollio on the status of improvements which have occurred since that school district entered into an oversight agreement with the state board on August 28, 2018.
Dr. Pollio pointed to a number of areas where progress has been made since the August agreement was signed, but several comments during his presentation called for a lot more information.
Around 3 hours and 37 minutes into the meeting, 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. You can hear Dr. Pollio’s exact discussion by clicking on this video extract from the meeting:
This surprise admission seemed likely to generate questions from the board, but that didn’t happen.
A little later in the presentation, Pollio made another attention-grabbing comment, claiming: “JCPS has one of the lowest real estate tax rates in all of our area.” Here’s the extract of these comments.
Is this really true?
The latest Revenue and Expenditures report from the Kentucky Department of Education is for the 2017-18 school term. When the data in the “2018 AFR Receipts” tab in this spreadsheet is sorted on the “Local Revenue Per Pupil” column, JCPS ranks fifth-highest in the state.
Now, it’s possible much of this local tax money could come from sources other than real estate, but at the least I think this needs more explanation. Some element in the Louisville economy is putting up a lot of money. If not property owners, then who, and is this equitable?
As Dr. Pollio finished, he opened himself to questions. I was anticipating some good questions from KBE members.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, KBE Chair David Karem peremptorily announced Pollio’s presentation was a “Review Item” only and members would need to direct questions to Kelly Foster at a later date. Foster is the department of education staff member in charge of the JCPS oversight. However, questions directed to her from individual board members would neither occur in a public forum nor have any transparency.
Karem’s action is unacceptable. Board members should neither be muzzled nor let it happen. While the chairman is responsible for leading the meeting, he’s absolutely wrong to muzzle fellow members. Listen for yourself how this muzzling took place:
Such muzzling probably would not have happened with the state board that Gov. Andy Beshear summarily fired on his first day in office. That former board was far more open and transparent about its dealings with the troubled JCPS.
This situation just isn’t right on a number of dimensions.
It’s clear we need a state board, but why even bother having a meeting if members are just going to be muzzled? Our students and state deserve better.
Regarding the busing situation, the Bluegrass Institute has pointed out problems with JCPS busing for many years (just search the blog with the term “Busing” to find them). During this time, the district constantly indicated things were generally fine with rides getting shorter and most getting their choice of schools. NO ONE ADMITTED UNTIL NOW THAT THIS DIDN’T INCLUDE THE WEST END OF LOUISVILLE! This sort of thing deserves the KBE’s careful consideration, which didn’t happen today and that is clearly wrong.
Added 10Apr20 at 10:30 am
By the way, I am impressed that Dr. Pollio was up front and forthright about the problem with the busing program in JCPS. This is a hopeful sign that this chronic problem might finally be addressed.