It’s been an honor to serve on and chair this board. All of us agree that nothing’s more important than educating Louisville’s children, and I’ve learned from and value my relationships with each of you. It’s also been a privilege to serve the students and families who are JCPS’ customers, and the 16,000 employees who serve them. And to work with some great executives, tremendous analysts and unsung heroes in this administration.
One of the realities of chairing a board is that you rarely get to speak in your own voice. Like other members you have only one vote, but you have the added duty to seek and enunciate consensus or compromise among your colleagues, and to voice the majority view even when it is not your own.
So for the past two years I’ve rarely spoken just for myself. Since my term as chair is ending, now I will.
We’ve made some progress in the past four years. Importantly, we allowed the Superintendent to be honest about the appalling reality that less than half of JCPS students attain proficiency during their time in our schools. We helped her create a strategy to dramatically change this reality by personalizing education to the needs of the individual child.
Even more important, we empowered her to create a plan to fund this strategy, without relying on empty dreams of new state or federal money, or immoral imaginings that our teachers can get better results without more resources and training.
Dr. Hargens’ funding plan responded to the many outside audits that criticized the District for spending too much money on administration, and provided detail on where this money sits in our budget.
This plan is right here. This is the salary study, the first since 1979, that identifies $60 million that could be moved into our classrooms – with no layoffs, no firings, and with teachers continuing to get step increases and annual raises so their pay stays competitive. Let me repeat: No layoffs, and teachers continue to get raises and step increases.
With $60 million JCPS could hire 1000 new professionals: certified teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists. Or 500 new professionals and a fabulous investment in training. We could radically change the student-teacher ratio in the schools where kids need it the most, and provide the other professionals who would enable teachers to teach instead of play social worker, or provider of school supplies, or disciplinarian.
There is $60 Million in the book. It is all here: A line by line listing of where we find the money in the existing budget. No new money from Frankfort. No charity from Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. No extraordinary tax increase. This is about current JCPS money, which the board has the power to spend on the kids who need it.
All that is needed is the will to restructure our ancient compensation system for the benefit of Louisville’s kids. This won’t be easy, because it will require moving money to support kids who need it rather than looking out for the wants of adults who band together for the biggest piece of the pie they can grab.
The adults have their voice, through their unions. Our struggling kids, on the other hand, have much less political clout. Their only hope is that this board will act to restructure the school system so that it serves them far better than it does today.
You have been handed the knowledge to direct funding to its rightful and most urgently needed place: The classroom. The work has been done; it’s in this book.
The voters said they want change. I wish you the courage and discipline to deliver the success all JCPS students deserve.