FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Louisville, KY
On Monday, July 27, 2020, at the monthly AROS Louisville meeting, Gay Adelmann, co-founder and President of Dear JCPS, withdrew the organization’s membership from the coalition, citing irreconcilable differences over their demands members agree to “unconditional support” of the JCPS tax increase, which is slated to be on the November 3 ballot.
Dear JCPS, along with five other organizations, were charter members of the coalition, formed in 2017, which aligned on the commitment to racial equity in JCPS. The other charter organizations were Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA), Fellowship of Reconciliation Louisville, The League of Women Voters Louisville, Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, and the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth joined in 2018.
“There’s too much at stake for us to continue to allow those who don’t share the same sense of urgency for educational justice for our most vulnerable students to control the narrative and shut out voices of authentic grassroots groups closest to those in pain,” says Dear JCPS co-founder Gay Adelmann. “After running into the same roadblocks year after year, we have withdrawn from AROS Louisville, and encourage all our anti-racist allies in the AROS coalition to do the same.”
The path to our departure from AROS was initiated when we learned that JCPS planned to create its own 501(c)4 non-profit fundraising organization, to be coordinated by the district’s consulting firm, which it plans to have run their tax increase marketing campaign. The district also plans to appoint their own “steering committee” to make fundraising, strategy and messaging decisions. Powerful decision makers appear to be allowing influences of elite district and business leaders, including JCTA, the Mayor’s office and Evolve 502, to have sway, while shutting out and even attacking grassroots groups. This was demonstrated after the May monthly AROS meeting when a quorum of members agreed to move forward with a “pro-public education” pledge and website, only to learn that JCPS consulting firm representatives and others in power were able to convince AROS leadership to wait, derailing and delaying our team’s ability to gather momentum and public support.
Despite the consulting firm’s commitment to work with grassroots groups in their proposal that was submitted to the district via the RFP process, none of our organizations’ calls to any of their representatives have been returned, nor have offers or requests for meetings been accepted. Despite repeated efforts to share our concerns with decision makers, AROS leadership admits to taking a meeting with the consulting firm without any of the concerned member representatives present. Dear JCPS warns that district leaders will likely appoint “go along to get along” groups and leaders to the table, continuing to muzzle marginalized voices, in an effort to push the tax increase through as quietly as possible. Again, Dear JCPS believes this is the wrong strategy and wanted to warn Dr. Pollio why we feel this plan will backfire.
“This is not the first time something like this has happened, and with the student assignment plan and tax increase on the table, now is the time to demand representatives from these groups have a seat at that table. And if they won’t listen, we will just have to make our own table,” said Dear JCPS Officer Ivonne Rovira of her experiences as an AROS delegate. “If I want to be ineffectual, I can be ineffectual some other way.”
The final straw for Dear JCPS was when the chair of the AROS Louisville chapter, who was mysteriously appointed three years ago under guidance and direction from JCTA, and has remained in that role ever since, single-handedly and repeatedly not only derailed critical and timely work of its coalition members, but informed us that we had agreed to “unconditional” support of the tax increase. This was taking place as critical voices representing Black parents and community members, including the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Louisville PTO, GLABSE and the Coalition for West Louisville Neighborhood Associations, to name a few, who object to unconditional support of the tax increase, were being actively and intentionally shut out of the conversation.
“When AROS leadership made it impossible for a Black-led parent group, Louisville PTO, to become a member of the coalition, and when valid concerns and objections from Black-allied member organizations were ignored and even discredited month after month, it became clear that AROS Louisville had been compromised by these outside AstroTurf influences,” said Adelmann.
“Despite criticisms from tone-deaf community leaders, there has been no inconsistency with messaging from dissenting organizations: Dear JCPS, Louisville PTO, The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and numerous other allied organizations, support a tax increase for JCPS, as long as the district can demonstrate its commitment to racial equity. We’re just not there yet.”
“When the dust settles, we want to be standing on the right side of history. AROS Louisville, under its current leadership, is on the wrong side of history. And we wanted to distance ourselves as quickly and vocally as possible.”
“That’s why Dear JCPS invites allies to instead join the Kentucky Alliance Education Committee as we revise the People’s Agenda, to include a list of demands for JCPS. The Coalition’s reasonable list of demands include a LIVE REAP on the current student assignment plan, and a Board Resolution in support of the People’s Agenda, to be passed at the September 29 JCPS board meeting (similar to the Safe Haven Resolution passed by the board in 2017). The Kentucky Alliance Education Committee meets on Monday’s at 4:30 PM via Zoom,” Adelmann said.