I received the attached email from board member Linda Duncan this morning. I wanted to share it with you, along with my response.
Thank you for your email.
As they say, “correlation does not equal causation.” Yes, gaps have widened, and yes, students have become less engaged. However, that doesn’t mean busing is to blame. There are many, many other factors that come into play. And this is where we need to be focusing our attention.
It’s also not an either/or scenario. As I explained to Rep. Kevin Bratcher (who sponsored the “Neighborhood Schools” Bill last session), by the board approving a Males of Color Academy, we have not “announced … that diversity is not the top value anymore.” Not at all. Families who want schools to provide Afro-centric curriculum and equity in instruction, discipline and opportunities has nothing to do with wanting to return to segregation. This should exist in ALL schools, but since it doesn’t, they are requesting we start with one. Why must families choose between diversity and equity?
Males of Color Academy is open to students of all races. Segregation by choice is not the same as segregation by force, or by lack of access. If disenfranchised families want this option, we should listen to why, but it doesn’t mean we should force it upon all. We all agree things must change, but that doesn’t mean the only way to do it is to return to segregation. It’s well past time to do the difficult work of revisiting the student assignment formula and process. It’s been a taboo subject no one wants to touch and that’s finally starting to backfire on us. The current student assignment process is not transparent, has significantly more hurdles for poor, minority students, and frankly, it’s discriminatory.
How can district leaders come to ANY conclusions without giving those most affected by busing an opportunity to be heard? I encourage you to talk to teachers and families in these downtown and West End schools. I encourage the district to engage in authentic dialogue with community members. Not just the ones who know how to advocate but the ones who are too busy overcoming systemic injustices to contact their board members and attend community forums. We must get out into the community and find out what people want to see happen here. We cannot defer to the ones who are the loudest, because some of the same folks who are promoting a privatization agenda have given a small sliver of the community a megaphone. They do not speak for the majority of people I encounter in my advocacy work.
Our student assignment plan is not perfect. But due to our segregated housing in Louisville, and lack of schools in the West End, busing is still needed. Approval of the Males of Color Academy should not be used as “justification” to end busing and take away opportunities that busing and integration provide to a greater number of students … not just students of color, but white students, as well.
Yes, let’s change the formula. But let’s do it in a way that is equitable, transparent and inclusive. Let’s stop throwing our most vulnerable, most disenfranchised students and their families under the bus, literally. Let’s seek their input and give those paying the highest price a chance to lead the discussion for once. This is difficult work the JCPS community must do, not have dictated to us by lawmakers. Dear JCPS is ready to assist. Please let me know how we can help.
Thank you for your service, and again for reaching out.