School Board for Kentucky's Largest District Approves Settlement to Avoid State Takeover
Kentucky's largest school district has struck a deal with the state Board of Education to avoid the state's attempt to seize control of the system.
The Jefferson County Board of Education approved the settlement in a 4-3 vote Monday night, The Courier Journal reported. The state's board still must agree to dismiss an appeal case. The two sides had been headed toward an appeals process, which would have pitted the district and the state against each other in a multi-day hearing lasting into the fall.
The settlement staves off what could have been a drawn-out fight over state Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis' original recommendation that Kentucky take over managing the entire 100,000-student district. In making his case for a state takeover, Lewis cited an abundance of low-performing schools and the serial abuse of students in the district. He also noted huge achievement gaps between black and white students.
The settlement would give Lewis final veto authority over any policy or procedure changes related to early childhood education. The district also agreed, among other things, to create and staff an independent office to investigate any complaints related to the district.
Proponents of the deal have lauded it for allowing the district and the state to focus on moving forward and correcting issues rather than spending time with lawyers and hearings.
But Jefferson County Public Schools board member Chris Kolb, who voted against the settlement, said he thought Lewis' recommendation of state management was "unwarranted" and that the school district would have prevailed in a fight against it. Kolb said he was voting against it largely out of concern about loopholes that could allow the state to still take over the district.
The school district and the Kentucky Department of Education will now have to create corrective action plans for the nearly 60 areas identified in the audit as being deficient. Lewis will have final say on those plans.
Under the settlement, Jefferson County Public Schools would have to undergo a new management audit no earlier than Sept. 15, 2020, after which the state could again recommend a takeover.