LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Soon the largest city in Kentucky will elect its mayor, and for a change the winner will be someone other than Jerry Abramson. Abramson, winner of five previous mayoral elections in the River City, decided to seek higher office and is pursuing the post of Lieutenant Governor. Either Greg Fischer or Hal Heiner will prevail on November 2, 2010 and education issues have run a close second to job creation in the mayoral race, with Jefferson County Public Schools’ (JCPS) controversial student-assignment plan taking center stage.
JCPS Student-Assignment Plan
The history of the JCPS student-assignment plan is long and complicated, but the most interesting part started in 2007, when the then-current plan was struck down by the United States Supreme Court. The Court ruled in Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education , 551 U.S. 701 (2007), that the JCPS plan violated students’ Equal Protection rights because it unlawfully used a student’s race as the primary consideration in making student assignments.
JCPS responded to the Meredith decision by changing its student-assignment plan. Instead of considering the student’s race, the plan now considers the race, earnings and educational levels of the student’s neighbors. The plan has been implemented for elementary school students and will be rolled out for middle school students starting in the fall of 2011.
Hal Heiner has openly criticized the new plan. In late September, 2010, he started running a television ad calling for a new approach to student-assignment in Jefferson County. On September 21, 2010, the Courier-Journal newspaper reported on Heiner’s television ad, citing Heiner’s description of the plan as “failed.” Heiner’s official website includes a link to the Courier-Journal article. Heiner has certainly made his stance on this issue clear.
Fischer’s official website does not comment on the student-assignment issue. The candidate limits his specific education plans to expanding after-school programs, introducing nurses to each school, and “supporting the many positive school improvement efforts already underway.”
However, the Courier-Journal’s Forum section claimed on September 26, 2010, that Fischer “staunchly supports the diversity goals of the system and the plan needed to enforce them.” I would like to hear directly from the candidate on this issue.
Impact on my Family
My four-year-old daughter will start kindergarten in the fall of 2011. At this point, we do not know which school she will attend. The JCPS student-assignment plan divides Louisville into “clusters,” much resembling the spokes of a wheel. Each cluster contains neighborhoods on each end of the educational level and earnings spectrums. Students are not guaranteed to attend any particular school, even one a few hundred feet from the student’s house.
Each cluster contains both high-achieving and low-achieving schools, with the majority of high-achieving schools being located in the suburbs. Parents can apply to four of these schools, but two of the schools must come from the less desirable group. We will also apply to our cluster’s traditional school, thus giving us three acceptable choices for our daughter.
I already worry about what to do if our daughter is only accepted into a low-performing school. Paying for private school is not a realistic option; neither is home-schooling. We are a middle-class family struggling to pay off my student loans. We simply cannot afford another $6,000-$8,000 per year for private school. We both work full-time, so neither of us can stay home to educate our daughter during the day.
I do not understand why JCPS does not just allow students to attend the school closest to their homes. Under such a system, my family would most likely move to another part of the city, targeting areas with the highest-performing schools. Such a move would be more economically feasible than paying private school tuition, mostly because any increased costs in our budget would be allocated towards a tangible asset.
The JCPS student assignment plan fails to provide families with any certainty. People move to neighborhoods to enjoy the services provided in certain areas. People enjoy local police and fire service and go to local post offices. Why can’t people enjoy the services of the neighborhood school?
Dan Klepal, Hal Heiner says JCPS should end ‘failed’ student-assignment plan, Courier-Journal.com
Hal Heiner says JCPS should end ‘failed’ student-assignment plan , Halformayor.com
Education and Workforce Development A National Center for Joy in Learning from Childhood to Adulthood, Gregfischer.com
Hal Heiner’s Television Ad, youtube.com