One of my very first encounters with Jason Nemes should have been a red flag, but I was so naïve back then, I truly believed people would do better if they just knew better. So on a day when I was in Frankfort already storming the halls of injustice, I decided to drop in on Jason. I didn’t have an appointment, and I didn’t even know if he was in, but I told his secretary I was a Jefferson County resident and that I wanted to talk to him about the “neighborhood schools” bill, which would do the opposite of what they claimed it would do. And Black and West Louisville JCPS students in particular would be harmed, not helped.
Shortly after his secretary went off in search of Jason, she came back and opened up a door that exposed a much deeper cave system of offices, tall dark brown wood walls, and large glass windows. Jason’s office was the largest office I can recall having visited in the Annex, with a conference table overlooking the grounds’ courtyard or hillside, and a large desk, at which I took a seat across from him.
During the conversation, Jason lost his temper with me. He was so certain that whatever JCPS was doing wrong was incurable and that the only solution was powerful white bureaucrats who have little to no experience in public schools, micromanaging school leaders and teachers to death, instead of removing the handcuffs and providing them with the common-sense supports and resources they were asking for. He heard my persistent rebuttals to his misguided and misinformed claims as disrespect, and because his arguments had so many holes in them, I left him no choice but to jump up from his seat, raise his voice to cut me off, shouting, “What do we have to lose?”
His outburst interrupted the sounds coming out of my mouth. I stood and pivoted to mirror his stance, which had now moved to the conference table where he had dramatically thrown the papers that were in his hand. I paused for no more than half a second before responding with, “Everything.”
He was silent. The meeting was over. He excused himself and scurried off to another meeting.
Later that night, I heard from Tiffany Dunn, a conservative JCPS teacher who had been trying to build a rapport with Jason so that he would sponsor an opt-out bill that our organization had been championing. She told me that he was furious with me for telling his secretary I was one of his constituents just so I could get a meeting with him. I was shocked to learn that this was the latest sin I had been accused of committing, first because that’s not at all what happened, and second because his wrong-headed opinions decisions impact ALL of Jefferson County Public Schools, not just his constituents. Not only am I a JCPS stakeholder and taxpayer, I also represent a grassroots organization that hears from and advocates for a lot of those impacted people. And to top matters off, I have been one of the most outspoken individuals about changes that needed to be made at the district level regarding student assignment. The state coming in and interfering with the discussions and decision-making that needs to take place would make matters worse.
Upon reflection, I think that was exactly WHY their campaign generated so much KY GOP interest and fervor. The powers that be, who are operating from one of the playbooks that outsiders and infiltrators have been working, not only in Kentucky, but across the country, to penetrate public schools and sell them off to the highest bidders, saw their window of opportunity changing direction, and they wanted to get in front of it. Taking power away from our democratically elected school board members, who we had JUST successfully defended against those same enemies at the district level, and handing it over to state lawmakers who made up an increasing supermajority, would ensure they could continue with their privatization agenda uninterrupted.
I didn’t know if Jason’s secretary had misunderstood and told him that I said I was a constituent, or if he simply made an assumption when she told him I was a resident in Jefferson County, but I did know that I had not lied to her, as his accusation to Tiffany stated. Why would I? I felt I had every right to be heard and if he didn’t want to meet with me, he could have said no. Instead he took the meeting and then later lied about me to cause me to lose credibility. I do believe he shared that lie publicly, which was one of the first times I remember finding myself under attack by allies. For a lie. As if Jason is the victim or good guy and I’m somehow wrong or evil for trying to simply share concerns from impacted community members on a topic we had been actively cultivating feedback on for years.
I wish I knew then what I know now. This was a gimmick that is used by sly, manipulative, dishonest players who don’t have facts on their side. They throw out a false flag to give them cover and wound their rivals at the same time. It was among the first of many more to come.
KY Lawmaker Shits Where He Eats is but one more example. More will be added in the near future.