Opinion letter submitted to the Courier-Journal
The public education community – made up of students, parents/guardians, teachers, staff, and community leaders – is fighting a difficult battle, playing out locally as well as nationally, to save our public schools from a well-funded, well-orchestrated movement to privatize public education.
While some of these efforts may be well-intentioned, most are uninformed, self-serving, or downright evil. These outside groups range from politicians (many of whom don’t even have kids in public schools), to venture capitalists, to religious groups. Some are simply looking for a silver bullet. Others believe replacing highly qualified, certified teachers with less expensive, easier to bully personnel, or denying services to students who are more costly to educate, will help them put more cash in their pockets. Kentucky is by far the largest state yet to open the flood gates to access to our tax dollars earmarked for public education by way of charter legislation, so others are scurrying to secure their piece of the pie. While yet another group perceives an opportunity to use public funds to create schools that will promote their regressive or non-inclusive agendas, and these opportunists are even positioning themselves on boards that can influence the direction of this legislation.
True proponents of public education view it as the single most important pathway to success for every child, and we want to ensure that it remains equitable and accessible. Fighting this noble fight, day in and day out, to stave off these wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing, is hard work – especially when there is no money to be made, and no slick collateral or full-time marketing departments to support our efforts. Therefore, your endorsements for these candidates, who represent everything we are fighting against, felt like a punch in the gut.
One of your endorsed candidates for JCPS school board, Fritz Hollenbach, just moved back to Louisville last year, after having lived in another state for the last 28 years. Yet, this dark horse, newcomer candidate has already received around $250,000 in financial backing in the form of TV advertisements and mailers from an outside organization that is funded by a handful of millionaires, not stakeholders, pushing their own agenda. Meanwhile, the incumbent, Chris Brady, is truly a local candidate, which is what school board representation should be. His campaign budget is 1/10th that of your endorsed candidate. He a JCPS parent, educator and has lived here most of his life. He has demonstrated that he is willing to take a stand against the status quo and that he is a true defender of public education.
Similarly, your endorsement for David Jones, Jr. seems to overlook that this is another candidate – a venture capitalist no less – who is also spending 10 times the amount of his competitors to maintain a position that is essentially a “volunteer” job. He has been very supportive and “hands off” with our superintendent, despite repeated evidence that the data her team reports to the board members is erroneous, and we have seen a further decline of school safety and a widening of achievement gaps under his leadership. Chris Kolb, a JCPS graduate, a JCPS parent, an experienced educator, an active school volunteer, and a community leader with a track record of advocacy for children, intricately understands the problems plaguing our schools and our district and is passionate about public education. He will put public education ahead of profit.
Does your editorial board understand:
- What it’s like be demonized and demoralized due to the overemphasis of the fallacious metric of high-stakes test scores?
- How it feels to live under the constant threat of a state takeover or closure or having to shake things up every two or three years if gains are not made fast enough?
- The harm that is done when we force educators to endure a competitive environment over a collaborative one?
- The frustrations of dealing with a district that is constantly trying to implement “ivory tower” solutions when teachers’ and parents’ voices are not sought at the local school level?
- The culture of fear, top-down bullying tactics, erroneous data used to guide decision making, and cover-ups and denial, and many other outrageous things that continue to take place in our district on a daily basis?
I do. Which is why I have been attending practically every board meeting and work session for over a year, and our group is in constant communication with our board members. We know which board members ask tough questions, speak up and even vote against the grain when student needs are not put first. So, I know how I came to my opinions. Having not seen your editorial board members at any of these meetings, I can’t help but wonder how they arrived at theirs.
TRUE public education advocates, who have been staying up-to-date with the educational crisis we are in, encourage support for Chris Kolb in District 2, Chris Brady in District 7, and Ben Gies in District 4.
Just remember this slogan: We ALL win with Chris, Chris and Ben!
Gay Adelmann is a parent of a 2016 graduate from the Academy @ Shawnee, and co-founder of Dear JCPS, a stakeholder advocacy group that solicits feedback from constituents and amplifies that information to the JCPS Board of Education so that they are able to make more informed decisions.