Accountability

Where Are JCTA-Endorsed Reps When It Matters?

On perhaps one of the most important days in recent Kentucky education reform history, the day when a dark-money-Trojan-horse voucher bill made its way onto the floor of Kentucky’s General Assembly, not one, not two, but three candidates, who were endorsed by the largest teachers union in the state, failed to deliver the one vote needed to save public schools from the voucher vultures and other predatory practices across the entire Commonwealth.

It’s no surprise that the most eager Yes vote came from House Representative Jason Nemes. He continues to be union president Brent McKim’s golden boy who can do no wrong, despite frequent objections from rank-and-file members. Objections peaked recently when it was revealed he had provided his voter database login information to a Tea-party leader who was using it to make sure she had enough signatures to challenge a badly needed public school tax increase. This led to exposure of cracks in the integrity of the election tabulation software. Several teachers stepped up to challenge the incumbent leadership in the union’s most recent tightly controlled elections. Despite Herculean efforts on the part of the candidates, which was met with gaslighting and misdirection, the incumbent leaders declared themselves winners, and that was that.

Next up was Al Gentry. He was one of the slowest Reps to cast his vote, and he explained he got more calls from Catholic teachers than public school teachers in his district. Catholic schools serve about 20% of the population in Jefferson County, so although he may have run into more Catholics at church, that does not reflect the larger segment of the population who did not have his ear, or did not know to have his ear. Why weren’t JCPS teachers also calling their Reps? Where is union leadership?

The third vote could have come from Tom Burch. He did not register a YES or NO vote. According to sources, he “took a walk” during the time of the vote tabulation. A review of voting records shows he was present that day.

If any of this sounds familiar, I’ll tell you why. This isn’t the first time a JCTA-endorsed candidate failed to deliver and gotten away with it. In fact, on the last day of legislative session in 2019, Senator Julie Raque Adams failed to cast the lone vote that could have stopped the confirmation of EdChoice Director Gary Houchens to the Kentucky Board of Education, and stopped the voucher vultures dead in their tracks. You see, Ed Choice has close ties and lots of overlap with the Catholic Community, as does Senator Raque Adams. 

If vouchers are so great, why didn’t HB149, the original voucher bill of the session, gain any traction? Why did they have to take a low-profile “open borders” bill and turn it into a voucher bill on a Friday afternoon when few were paying attention or able to react? To add insult to injury, the substitute bill was not made available to the public until it had already passed out of committee.

There was more back and forth on this year’s bill, including taking out private school eligibility, only to add it back in once everyone’s feathers had become unruffled. There was also the generous offer to add full-day kindergarten funding to the bill to make it more palatable. This should be done without having to make trades with the devil. But, because it’s not a budget year, they would need 60 votes for a bill with an expenditure to pass. When it became evident they weren’t going to have the votes, they took out the appropriation so the bill could pass with a simple majority. Sorry kiddos. Better luck next year!

If I didn’t know better, I would think JCTA leadership “accidentally” let vouchers into Kentucky.