A week for the history books, for better or for worse.
In case you didn’t hear, Jefferson County Public Schools unanimously passed a proposal that would essentially gut the final remnant of its decades-old school integration plan — aka “busing.”
The proposal also calls for several changes to how JCPS handles its magnet schools, which are supposed to be a way to achieve natural integration in schools but ended up being an enclave of exclusion.
It’s a major gamble.
On the magnet side, it isn’t clear how much the changes will lead to the district’s ultimate goal, which is interesting and diverse magnet programs students want to attend and to which they have equitable access.
Many people are frustrated the changes are happening at all — why “hurt” some of JCPS’ top-performing schools, they question. But the plan doesn’t do much to spots like duPont Manual, leaving many others frustrated JCPS didn’t go further.
And the plan will further resegregate schools. As The Courier Journal pointed out more than a year ago, JCPS schools were already becoming less diverse, with Black students becoming increasingly likely to land in a high-poverty, hyper-segregated school.
JCPS acknowledges this trend will continue, but allowing West End families a close-to-home option could come with benefits: more student and family engagement, better attendance, etc.
But counteracting intense concentrations of poverty is incredibly difficult to do, even with extra resources. (A set of 13 West End schools will split $12 million a year for at least the next decade.)
JCPS, among a menu of supports, is betting on getting passionate educators in West End classrooms — and then convincing them to stay.
But those schools have struggled to staff vacancies. How are they going to fill those spots, and then fill new spots? Superintendent Marty Pollio told reporters last week the district will need to be “innovative” on top of offering raises and hefty stipends, but filling vacancies ultimately comes down to convincing teachers to go to those schools.
Can't forget the school board races
On top of it all, JCPS is at risk of the November school board elections undoing the entire student assignment thing — and probably a lot more.
A majority of school board seats are up for election this fall, and a slate of "liberty" candidates is vying to defeat incumbents and usher in a large philosophical shift.
School board seats are nonpartisan in Kentucky, but it isn't a large leap to say none of the current JCPS board members align with the fledgling liberty wing of the Republican party.
Candidates frustrated with virtual learning, COVID-19 mask policies, "critical race theory" and/or "sexually explicit" books in school libraries have had mixed success in Kentucky.
In a recent batch of school board races in other states, candidates against those hot topics lost more than those who supported them, a Ballotpedia analysis found. But one-third of incumbents lost — nearly double the loss rate in 2018 and 2020.
Interested school board candidates have until this afternoon to file to run. All incumbents — Diane Porter, Corrie Shull, James Craig and Linda Duncan — are running for reelection.
Let's circle back to teachers
JCPS educators, rejoice! Your salaries will be increasing 4% next year.
A tentative agreement between JCPS and the Jefferson County Teachers Association also includes $8,000 stipends for teachers in high-needs schools, beginning in 2023-24.
The agreement also makes some tweaks to curb staffing shortages next year, allows for high-needs schools to hire teachers earlier and pushes JCPS to provide mental health supports for educators.
Educators, who just finished what many called the most taxing year of their careers, largely told me they want more hands on deck, more planning time, less bureaucracy and time to actually chew their food during lunch as their “mental health” supports.
Last week, Pollio criticized state lawmakers for not giving teachers raises and telling districts to do it themselves, but not giving them enough money (at least in JCPS’ case) to do so. Please build teacher raises into the budget next time, thank you, he said.
His comments come as lawmakers kick off their summer with a conversation about the teacher shortage during the first Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting today at 11 a.m.
A shortage of educators isn’t new, but it is hitting crisis levels. Today’s committee hearing should, hopefully, shine light on how seriously lawmakers are taking the problem, and what solutions could be on the table.
A well-known Louisville journalism teacher is facing child pornography charges. No students were involved.
JCPS now has only one COVID-19 test site, so head to the C.B. Young Building from 3 to 7 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, for your COVID-19 testing needs.
JCPS is handing out free meals for Louisville kids again. Head here to learn about locations and times.
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Reach Olivia Krauth at email@example.com and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: The first draft of JCPS history