I respectfully request that the following message be included with the minutes for the Sept 29, 2020 JCPS Board Meeting. Due to possible word-count limitations, an online version can also be found in its entirety at https://dearjcps.com/earn-the-peoples-vote/.
I want to thank Senator Adams for following up with district leaders on the concerns we shared previously regarding the disconnect between the information communicated by Dr. Pollio during the Sept. 1 board meeting, and the responses provided by the open records attorney on two separate occasions. By way of this email, I want to let everyone that has been part of these conversations know that immediately after I forwarded an email demonstrating these disparities to Dr. Pollio, I received a prompt text message from him that stated,
I now know what the problem has been. … We completed multiple REAPS on the current student assignment plan but did various parts of the plan. The task force never did one single REAP on the entire plan. I believe you aren’t asking for the parts. You are asking for one REAP on the entire plan. We did not perform that. We have made the decision to do that at our next task force mtg. I apologize for the misunderstanding.
I appreciate Dr. Pollio’s prompt reply and his commitment to provide the long-awaited analysis at the next task force meeting.
As a result of these latest developments, we have some additional questions we are hoping Dr. Dossett can help us with.
1). In your email below, you state that “we are still in the process of gathering feedback.” Can you please provide the methods and audiences where feedback is still being gathered? The online survey is “no longer accepting responses.” What are the timelines and venues for these feedback opportunities for those who still feel unheard or shut out, especially in light of the evolving pandemic, the movement for Black lives nationally, Breonna Taylor (a JCPS graduate), and the #SayHerName movement locally? What may have been “the best we can hope for” prior to these developments deserves bold and innovative solutions moving forward.
2). In Dr. Pollio’s text message referenced above, he states there will be a Racial Equity Analysis Protocol (REAP) done on the current plan in its entirety at the next task force meeting. Can you provide that date and time? Will there be opportunity for public comments to be heard at the end of the meeting, like the task force used to allow before COVID?
3). Can you please ensure the REAP on the current student assignment plan takes into account “downhill” impacts, such as community donations, volunteer involvement, outside supports, SBDM power, fundraising ability, political influence, booster organizations, athletic programs, ability of “disenfranchised and disconnected” families from having a child apply/be accepted into a higher performing magnet program, test scores, factors that drive higher concentrations of poverty, minority or disability to some schools, outside evaluations such as Great Schools which can become a self-fulfilling gap widener, and other domino effects that may be identified during the REAP. Our Coalition would like an opportunity to feel confident that the REAP has not overlooked any glaring concerns prior to presenting it to the public.
4). In order to know the extent of the inequities, it is imperative that the plan be evaluated from its current, entire state, so that any racial barriers can be identified and eliminated immediately, the extent of the remaining disparities can be communicated to the public and intermediate and long-term goals can be set, prior to moving away from any baseline data. It is imperative that the community hear the truth about these disparities and the harms our actions (or inactions) have caused, no matter how painful, so that we can make informed decisions about the importance of the tax increase and begin to allocate the attention and resources necessary to make repairs. What is the plan to share these findings with the community ahead of the critical tax vote? How can we help?
Most, if not all, of the members of our Coalition understand the importance and urgency of the tax increase. Our concerns are that (for various reasons, ranging from too many competing priorities to a lack of trust that the district will do what it says it will do) there is currently not enough community support for this ballot measure to pass. The purpose of the Coalition is to seek to remedy this by bringing forward concerns from the impacted communities our organizations represent, and working toward taking back to these stakeholders a demonstration of understanding and commitment to how the district seeks to remedy these concerns, in order to mobilize Black and West End voters and their allies to turn out on November 3. After all, Black voters in West Louisville represent a significant voting bloc. We feel their votes alone could determine if this measure were to pass or fail.
We also want to be clear that we acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous gains Dr. Pollio has made weaving racial justice into the district’s culture and climate, developing equitable policies and protocols, and even moving on to evaluating the renaming of schools and changing mascots, if appropriate. However, we can’t continue to dance around the elephant in the room, which is our grossly inequitable Student Assignment Plan. In a vacuum, the proposed changes that came out of 2 ½ years of committee work do a great job realigning the existing student assignment map for those who live in the West End, but they don’t begin to address the broad, glaring inequities that come from the overall admittedly structurally racist plan that forces ONLY West End students to travel in the name of “equity.” The tweaks that represent the changes to the plan still do not make it EQUAL. Therefore, we have a LONG WAY to go before the plan begins to approach EQUITABLE. When in fact, in an equitable plan, the burden of diversity would be placed on those with the greatest access to resources, transportation, flexibility, and means, not those with the least. Furthermore, voting on these changes prior to learning the extent of the harm also risks kicking the can down the road another 10 years before our community can muster up the political will to entertain making another round of changes. Furthermore, it could put the only part of the student assignment plan that strives to continue integrated schools by providing an opportunity for students to attend school outside of their high-minority, impoverished neighborhood in jeopardy. The impacted communities have proposed solutions that have gone largely unheard and ignored. These inequities continue to compound every year they remain unaddressed. We understand district leadership’s concern of moving slowly and cautiously to avoid “unintended consequences,” however, there are also possible consequences from delay or from unwinding a piece without looking at the whole. And as William E. Gladstone said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Now more than ever, Jefferson County (not just JCPS, but all of us) has a responsibility to end and repair the harm that continues to be done to our West End communities. Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to speak truth to power and push back on those who seek to oppress our most vulnerable community members. Now more than ever, under the leadership of Dr. Pollio, JCPS is in a position to make meaningful, transformative change for our black, brown, poor, disabled and disenfranchised students and their families. And we – all of us – have an obligation to do so urgently.
When creating solutions for people who are closest to the pain, we must ensure impacted community members have a seat at the table. This includes not only meeting them where they are, but also not turning a blind eye when we see grassroots voices being shut out by powerful white business elites with a different agenda than what’s best for our students and our tax dollars. Trust taxpayers, parents, community members and allies to support you as you continue to make monumental gains against racial injustice. Trust grassroots leaders to bring a groundswell of support as you do what is right and what is just.
In closing, this past Wednesday, our Coalition had our first opportunity to share community concerns with Dr. Pollio since July 16. (The coalition had sent a prior email during the last regular Board meeting raising concerns and objecting to the fact that the public has not been able to have their voice heard at board meetings since COVID.) We informed him of the Coalition’s four reasonable demands to “EARN the People’s Vote” prior to a “decision date” of October 11. Leaders from the Coalition’s majority-Black decision-making council have requested a follow-up meeting with Dr. Pollio as soon as possible. Until the district demonstrates a good-faith effort to work with these grassroots groups to address our demands, Coalition members’ position on supporting the tax increase remains “no,” “not yet,” and “not until/unless.” We appreciate the open and transparent dialogue and look forward to working together to dismantle the structures that have caused (and continue to cause) great harm to our most impacted students, and to create sustainable solutions that not only repair that harm, but propel ALL JCPS students forward.
Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can be of service in this regard.
Thank you for all you do,
“EARN the People’s Vote” Council Member