To every rumor, there is a seed of truth.
Let’s hope an entity with resources and ability to research the ties to Russia and other illegal or unethical activities can get to the bottom of what’s really going on in Kentucky!
To every rumor, there is a seed of truth.
The day was March 28, 2019. It was the last day of a 30-day legislative session. Teachers in the state’s largest school district, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) had just successfully “sicked out” six of the last seven days legislature was in session. I say “sickout” not strike, because it’s illegal for a union to call for a strike in Kentucky.
A number of predatory education bills, including HB205, the pension reform bill that put new teachers in a defined contribution plan, on the heals of 2018’s session, when a sewer bill was stripped in an effort to force a pension bill through in the dark of the night, kept JCPS teachers, and current and retired teachers across the state, on high alert.
By mid-March, district and union leaders were working out compromises, and failing at working out compromises, in an effort to get teachers to “settle down.” They also wanted “rouge groups” like Dear JCPS and other teacher-led groups like JCPS Leads and TRELF to stop encouraging it. They were going so far as to convince high-profile “pro-public education” JCTA-endorsed legislators from both political parties to write joint statements promising no more harmful legislation would be passed this legislative session, and then tagging us in their tweets.
After the last sickout on March 14th, there were no more days of session until March 28th. One lone day sitting on the horizon to cram as much garbage into the garbage disposal and see how much harm you can inflict on the unsuspecting before they are forced to gavel out at midnight. It’s like this every year. So why should teachers trust that a supermajority GOP-led legislature won’t mislead them this year?
For this reason, we decided to plan a rally in the Capitol Rotunda for the last day of session. We wanted to be prepared because we had every reason to believe that teachers and parents would be back.
But the gaslighting trying to keep coming out of JCTA leadership was strong. Emilie McKiernon Blanton wrote this opinion piece: JCPS teacher: We don’t need a sickout on Kentucky legislature’s last day
Meanwhile, Forward Kentucky wrote about how they were playing switcheroo with BOE appointments.
On the last day of session, the rally began at 10 AM. We had speakers and provided materials to make posters. The turnout was lower than we had anticipated. We learned that JCTA had called for a meeting with teachers in the Annex at the same time as our rally in order to compete with our event. In addition, they only had 300 teachers sign up to come to Frankfort as delegates, instead of the 500 that was part of the compromise. Although, very few were in the Capitol when it mattered.
Following the rally in the Rotunda, our group headed toward the Senate, where they were expected to gavel in at noon. At 11:55, I begin livestreaming from the Dear JCPS Facebook page, as we stand at the bottom of the Senate steps to encourage Senators to vote against the 9 resolutions that would confirm Governor Bevin’s anti-public education picks to the Kentucky Department of Education, a full year after he controversially appointed the remainder of them, (and who later sued the Governor after he removed them on his first day in office in 2019). One confirmation in particular that we had concerns about was Senate Resolution 240, which added another two years to pro-voucher EdChoice Director Gary Houchens‘ term.
Read more at saveourschoolsky.org: https://saveourschoolsky.org/2021/03/10/jcta-endorsed-senator-sells-out-jcps-teachers/
I was going to call this piece, “Wife of JCTA-Endorsed Legislator Receives Gift of Coveted JCPS Teaching Position Despite Continuously Crafting, Endorsing and Voting for Legislation that Harms JCPS Students and Taxpayers” but it took up too much space as a headline.
This piece is about Jason Nemes, who serves in the Kentucky State House on behalf of parts of Jefferson and Oldham counties. He’s been shitting where he eats for some time now, but only recently did we discover possible quid pro quo for in exchange for such heinous acts.
House Bill 208 (#HB208), the “back-to-school bill,” started out with good intentions, or so they were led to believe.
It was positioned to some legislators as a “funding bill.” They were told districts needed this new language in order for SEEK dollars to follow students because after the GOP stripped the governor of his executive powers, doing so was illegal. You see, after February 1, the governor was no longer authorized to use his executive powers to allow districts to continue on NTI longer than 10 days during a pandemic. This was one of several powers recently stripped from Kentucky’s governor. Another one was the Governor’s ability to reappoint boards and committees, such as the Pension Oversight Board. (More about that later.)
The GOP disingenuously stated this move was not a power grab. Yet two years earlier, Senate President Stivers spoke out of the other side of his mouth when he admonished our objection to the appointment of Bevin’s pro-privatization Board of Education, when he pressured the Senate to confirm pro-voucher board member Gary Houchens to KBE. Back then he believed the governor had the constitutional right to appoint people to boards and committees. Funny how they no longer feel that way now that Bevin is out.
So, what was wrong with HB208 in its original form? Well, it contained language that could force districts to provide in-person learning in order to qualify for the SEEK funding. One source claimed that after a $75,000 lobbying effort from KDE (I’m not sure how they know that), an amendment was added that made the bill “better” for districts like JCPS, who don’t have the infrastructure (and haven’t for decades, which is why we are making all these changes and needing to raise property taxes), by taking a bill that was going to force all districts to reopen to qualify for their funding, and adding an amendment that would provide exceptions for our most at-risk families to remain on NTI. That’s a good thing, right?
But alas, that was not their goal! So now groups like BIPPS and “Let them Learn” (mostly privileged white parents) are upset!
HB208 passed the House 87-8 last week and just passed out of Senate Education committee today 8-2, with a brand new substitution, which will once again force districts to reopen by March 29. It overrides the local school board’s authority on deciding to remain on NTI until our community knows it’s safe. The JCPS Board had already taken the initiative and voted in favor of a March 17 return date, apparently thinking that would call off the dogs. But it didn’t, did it?
During the committee meeting, the argument was even made that since the JCPS Board voted to return in person in anticipation of the passage of this bill, it was an implied endorsement of a bill, even though many members of JCPS board knew the bill was harmful. They played their defensive hand and left us exposed, once again.
This reminds me of a similar time the JCPS Board of Education voted 4-3 to accept the state takeover compromise with a wild swing vote from my own Board member. I even spoke at the following Board meeting to admonish her and others for giving away their constituents’ power by accepting the compromise deal from Bevin’s corrupt KBE and Commissioner, instead of holding out for our “day in court” against an ever-looming state takeover. (Someday you will need to ask me about the role white JCTA leadership played in all of this with #OurJCPS.)
Structural racism refers to the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care, and criminal justice. These patterns and practices in turn reinforce discriminatory beliefs, values, and distribution of resources.
It’s a pattern. But I digress…
Judging by the two guests who spoke in opposition to the bill in today’s elusive Senate Education Committee Meeting, it would seem that the scheming GOPers who had this brilliant idea for a bill to force schools to reopen, suddenly wanted to KILL THE BILL to fund districts operating on NTI! As if to say, “If we can’t force others to do education our way, NO ONE SHOULD be educated!” With the passage of today’s committee sub, the possibility that the option that allows some students to remain on NTI and still receive SEEK funding could be taken away from districts like JCPS becomes even more real. One JCPS teacher told us they are now being told to plan to return on March 22, and according to the bill language, students would be required to return in person no later than March 29, 2021.
Cheaters never win.
I think the GOP’s ALEC-friendly lawmakers’ original scheme has backfired. Their intentions of putting the wants of a privileged few above the lives of some of the district’s most vulnerable. But what everyone keeps forgetting is that it has not passed. There are some who want it killed. There are others who want it passed but don’t want to take away the local decision-making authority. But only those who truly understand systemic racism and the impacts on our students, educators and families of color, know that there is no deal with the devil that is good enough for our students.
Now that the intent-on-corruption legislators had successfully retroactively made the Governor’s executive orders to extend NTI beyond 10 days illegal, their next scheme was to force everyone back to in-person schooling so they can make sure they can administer their almighty tests. Certain lawmakers showed us today that this is an effort to control JCPS, because we are not complying with their scheme. The entire meeting, which you can watch below, seemed to carry the theme “What’s wrong with JCPS?,” and “If they can’t make good decisions, we will make their decisions for them.”
You can watch the entire meeting here:
Kentucky legislators keep passing bad bills, instead of solving the problems they are creating. Maybe these 8 Kentucky House Reps who voted “Nay” against their fellow educator bill sponsors, knew HB208 was a Trojan Horse all along? We will find out because after it passes the Senate it will be back to the House for another vote or amendment. Perhaps die-hard GOP party line toe-ers will come out against it and when the Dems who voted against catch on to their scheme, maybe they will switch their votes and vote yes. Maybe it will die in the House because the bill sponsors realize they’ve been duped, or they get cold feet, and it never gets called back to the floor.
What I do know is we should all be paying better attention. Because voters, taxpayers, teachers and parents are getting screwed. We should all contact our House Reps and make them aware these schemers are up to something. My Rep is Tina Bojanowski, one of the bill co-sponsors, a JCPS educator and JCTA member, and you can bet I’ve been texting back and forth with her quite a bit today.
Once our Representatives know to look for side and back room deals, even if they don’t understand it all just yet, ask them to start poking around. For those that are starting to get it, ask them if they feel like they’ve been played? I know some JCPS school board members do. In fact, Joe Marshall was our guest on this past Monday’s People’s Agenda meeting where we shared our concerns about some of these possibilities. #NowAreYouStartingToGetIt?
When will white lawmakers in Frankfort take their knees off Black JCPS students’ and educators’ necks?
In closing, the real question is, will HB208 accomplish its original goal to force vulnerable high-minority population districts like JCPS to go back in person before it’s safe for us to do so? And if so, for what? Just so they can force students to take abusive tests that benefit them in now way, while also dealing with trauma, loss, and health concerns that have been amplified, along with already existing learning gaps and racial injustices by a pandemic, and as Breonna Taylor’s school district, as the epicenter for the movement for Black Female Lives? Or will the scheming radical GOP special interest groups, like BIPPS and Let Them Learn, be able to kill their own bill, leaving other ways to continue their assaults on public education by tying up the governor’s authority in endless lawsuits and threatening to strip away funding for districts like JCPS that don’t reopen in person by their rushed timeline?
HB208 continues to carry a great deal of uncertainty, forcing a district the size of JCPS to leave hundreds of thousands of lives in the lurch, swinging wildly back and forth with every tweak of the bill.
Instead, wouldn’t it be great if our local elected officials would have the fortitude to stand up and say, “We are Jefferson County’s duly elected school board officials and we will NO LONGER allow outsiders to make our decisions for us!”? We are in a pandemic after all. And a movement for Black Lives.
Ignore the outsiders. We elected YOU to make decisions for our district, not them. You say you’re about racial justice? You say you want to dismantle structural racism? Well, stand up and fight for what’s best for our most vulnerable JCPS populations. If not now, when?
This story is developing and may be updated. Send questions. corrections or clarifications to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have done a brief review of the Bellwether report commissioned by the SCALA education subgroup and I wanted to share some information that should call into question the validity of conclusions drawn by or from the report. Specifically, the Bellwether report cites a number of other reports that have been discredited when subjected to academic peer review.
For example, the Bellwether report includes multiple references to “A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City.” A review (attached) of this report by (White – University of Colorado Boulder) found:
A report published by the Progressive Policy Institute calls for aggressively closing more public schools and expanding charter schools and charter networks. It highlights reforms adopted by Denver Public Schools, notably a “portfolio model” of school governance, and argues that these reforms positively impacted student test scores. However, causality cannot be determined, and the report did not attempt to isolate the effect of a multitude of reforms— including charters, performance pay, and a new performance framework—from larger complex forces shaping student demographics in the city. Written in a reportorial voice, the only data presented are in the form of simple charts. The lack of conventional statistical analyses thwarts the reader’s understanding. The report also characterizes the reform’s adoption as a “political success” born of a healthily contentious electoral process. In doing so, it down- plays the role of outside forces and moneyed groups that influenced the form of reforms, and it disregards missed opportunities for meaningful engagement with community stakeholders. Finally, while the report acknowledges the district’s failure to close achievement gaps and admits limitations with the evaluation system, it never explains how a successful reform could generate a widening gap in performance between student groups by race and class.
The Bellwether report is also based on “Measures of Last Resort: Assessing Strategies for State-Initiated Turnarounds.” A review (attached) of this report (Malen and Rice – University of Maryland) found:
The stated goal of this report is to strengthen the evidence base on state-initiated turn-arounds and to provide guidance to help states use turnaround strategies more effectively. The report draws on multiple sources of information to develop a conceptual framework and profile of state-initiated turnaround strategies, to array the evidence on the effectiveness of turnaround initiatives, and to identify key elements of a successful turnaround strategy. However, given multiple methodological limitations, the report fails to elevate either the research base or the policy discourse. Specifically, the methods used to carry out the original research (e.g., analysis of state policies, interviews with stakeholders, and illustrative cases) are neither explained nor justified. Likewise, the methods employed in the eight evaluations selected to assess the effectiveness of turnaround approaches are not described, and the evidence base produced by these evaluations is not sufficient to support the sweeping claims made in the report. Equally important, the report neglects to consider relevant research on the specific mechanisms (e.g., school reconstitution, intensive professional development, private management systems) that states use when they employ the broad turnaround strategies discussed in the report. As a result of these problems, the report does not enhance the evidence base or provide the substantive guidance state policymakers require to make informed decisions about the use of various school turnaround strategies.
These examples illustrate a broader problem with the Bellwether report – it is based on reports that would more accurately be described as policy advocacy documents than objective research. As such, making consequential decisions that would impact our community based on the Bellwether report would not be advisable because the report’s validity is highly questionable at best. Basing high-stakes decisions on such untenable evidence could lead to significant negative consequences and unintended outcomes.
I hope this information can be shared broadly, including with the full SCALA committee and that all involved will review the attached peer analyses carefully. I have also attached an additional analysis of portfolio districts, by William Mathis at the University of Colorado Boulder, which individuals may wish to review.
Portfolio Districts Analysis – Mathis
This post is a work in progress. We are putting together a list of key #Louminati articles that were released, in the order they were released. We will soon be updating this post with our interpretation of how these stories fit in to the big picture.
JCPS administrator: Community should be ‘outraged’ about high salaries – Posted: May 02, 2016 11:05 AM EDT
OPINION: Comment | ‘Outraged’ parent addresses CBO –
JCPS school board chairman David Jones Jr. loses bid for re-election – Posted: Nov 08, 2016 6:50 PM EST
Dozens call for JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens to resign – Posted: Feb 21, 2017 4:29 PM EST
With Charters On Horizon, Mayor’s Ties To School Choice Emerge – By Jacob Ryan – March 16, 2017
JCPS opts not to renew chief business officer Tom Hudson’s contract – Posted: May 19, 2017 12:44 PM EDT
Secret Christiansen Report, Commissioned by Tom Hudson, Conducted by “friend” of Tom Hudson, Never Before Seen By JCPS Board, Parents, Public, KDE – Oct. 31, 2016
The list of funders for Bellwether Education Partners consists mainly of conservative privatization advocacy groups and charter schools / charter advocacy groups. Below are some examples…
· Academy for Urban School Leadership
· Academy Prep Foundation
· ACE Charter Schools
· Algiers Charter Schools Association
· American Center for School Choice
· American Enterprise Institute
· American Federation for Children – Alliance for School Choice
· Archdiocese of Boston
· The Aspen Insitute/Stevens Initiative
· Black Alliance for Educational Options
· Boston Charter Fund
· The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems
· Brooke Charter Schools
· Center on Reinventing Public Education
· Charter Parents United
· Charter School Growth Fund
· Charter School Partners
· Chicago International Charter Schools
· Chiefs for Change
· Citizens of the World Charter Schools
· Collegiate Academies
· Community Charter School of Cambridge
· DC Association of Chartered Public Schools
· DC Prep
· Democracy Prep Public Schools
· Digital Promise
· Downtown College Prep
· Education Reform Now
· Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School
· The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
· Equitas Academy Charter Schools
· Freedom Preparatory Academy
· Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
· Friendship Public Charter Schools
· George W. Bush Institute
· Georgia Charter School Association
· Hebrew Charter School Center
· Hope Street Group
· Illinois Network of Charter Schools
· Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School
· Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice
· K12 Inc.
· KIPP Colorado
· KIPP Foundation
· KIPP Houston
· KIPP Kansas City
· KIPP Los Angeles
· KIPP Massachusetts
· KIPP San Antonio
· KIPP St. Louis
· Lake Wales Charter Schools
· Laura and John Arnold Foundation
· M.C. Adams Public Charter School
· Massachusetts Charter Public School Association
· Mastery Charter Schools
· National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
· National Association of Charter School Authorizers
· New Schools for Baton Rouge
· New Schools for New Orleans
· New York City Charter School Center
· New Schools Venture Fund
· Noble Network of Charter Schools
· The Oaks Academy
· Perspectives Charter Schools
· Philadelphia Leadership Academy
· Reason Foundation
· ReNew Schools Charter Management Organization
· Revolution Prep
· Rocketship Education
· Roman Archdiocese of Boston
· Scholar Academies
· St. Ignatius Catholic School
· Stand for Children
· The Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda
· STRIVE Preparatory Schools
· Students for Ed Reform
· Sylvan Learning
· Teach for America
· Teach for America – Bay Area
· Teach for America of Greater New Orleans
· Teach for America – Northeast Ohio
· Tennessee Achievement School District
· Tennessee Charter School Center
· Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)
· Texas Charter School Association
· Thomas B. Fordham Institute
· Thurgood Marshall Academy
· Thurgood Marshall College Fund
· Valley Christian Schools
· Voices College-Bound Language Academies
· The Walton Family Foundation
· YES Prep Public Schools