I ran for election to Louisville’s school board because I believed our public schools needed to improve, and were more likely to do so with the support and engagement of business leaders. “Increase student achievement” was my focus. The first thing I learned when I started to campaign last fall, however, was that most adult voters wanted to talk about busing. Opinions varied widely – as did cited facts and understandings of how JCPS’ student assignment plan works and how our public schools came to offer this system to Louisville citizens.
Tracy E. K’Meyer, Chair of the History Department at University of Louisville, has just published a fine book that sets Louisville’s experience and programs in historical context. She does so in concise, readable prose and well chosen quotations from community participants in the events she describes.
The result is a story that, although it played out mostly during my lifetime, touched me as fresh, alternatively painful and inspiring, and above all human. K’Meyer’s telling of Louisville’s generally calm reaction to Brown v. Board of Education was largely new to me, while the account of the protest and division unleashed by the 1975 busing order added important nuances to my understanding, including a range of perspectives from both pro- and anti-busing advocates, parents and students.
Especially valuable was the account of how Louisville moved since 1975 from a harum-scarum court-mandated busing plan (did you know the court’s August 1975 busing order allowed only one month for JCPS and school families to prepare?) through several iterations to the current “choice-within-clusters + magnets” system. At each stage Louisvillians argued for and against desegregation and busing, neighborhood schools, and different visions of community.
Louisville’s parents, educators and voters are fortunate that Dr. K’Meyer chose to focus her talents on our community’s history and gave us this important book to shed light on issues that continue to concern decision makers and citizens alike. If school board members could assign homework, this would be on my list!