Thursday, September 20, 2012

JCPS student-assignment plan upheld

State high court upholds Jefferson Co. student assignment plan
Reverses court of appeals decision that children can attend nearest school
This from the Courier-Journal (video):
The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Jefferson County Public Schools’ ability to decide where to assign students to school, rejecting a legal challenge by parents who argued that state law gives their children the right to attend the nearest school.
The 5-2 ruling marks a defeat for advocates of neighborhood schools, who hoped that the court would toss out a controversial student-assignment system that aims to integrate schools by race, income and education levels in part by requiring some students to attend more distant schools.
“Kentucky public school students have no statutory right to attend a particular school,” the majority opinion said. “Student assignment within a school district in Kentucky is a matter that the legislature has committed to the sound discretion of the local school board.”
At issue was a state law that says “within the appropriate school district attendance area, parents or legal guardians shall be permitted to enroll their children in the public school nearest their home.” Passed in the 1970s as an attempt to sidestep a federal desegregation order, it was ruled unconstitutional while the order was place. But that order has since been lifted.
The parents suing the district contended that the term “enroll” also means their children have the right to attend the closest neighborhood school.
Byron Leet, an attorney for the district, has argued that the legislature removed the word “attend” from the statute in 1990 to ensure that districts were allowed to make assignment decisions — not, as plaintiffs had contended, to clean up redundant language.

“We are certainly grateful for Kentucky's highest court confirming that the trial court was absolutely correct in dismissing this lawsuit,” Leet said.
The ruling ends the latest skirmish in a long-running battle over student assignment.
Critics of the district’s plan, including attorney Teddy Gordon, who has represented legal challengers in most court cases, argue it requires unnecessarily long and expensive bus rides and hasn’t reduced racial achievement gaps.
“All the parents in this case were courageous to take on the school system, and even though they did not win this round, they have made JCPS turn the corner, away from the outdated social experiment of busing,” Gordon said, referring to recent changes the district has made to reduce bus-ride times.
When the case was argued before the state’s highest court in April, the district argued that a right to attend the nearest school would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement, with Leet saying that “because of where buildings are and populations aren't, everyone can't attend the closest school.”

The Jefferson County Teachers Association, the League of Women Voters, the Kentucky School Boards Association, Fayette County Schools and a handful of parents all joined amicus briefs on behalf of the school system.
They argued that giving parents a right to attend the closest school would put unreasonable burdens on districts. They said elected school boards should be able to make assignment decisions.
And some groups like the NAACP of Louisville argued that because local housing patterns remain economically and racially segregated in many areas, a ruling giving children the right to attend their nearest school would resegregate schools in a way that could create inequities.
The battle over student assignment dates back decades.
The school board has been making changes and adjustments to its student assignment plan since 2007, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the district's decades-old desegregation policy, saying it relied too heavily on individual students' race when assigning them to schools.
The board adopted a new plan in 2008 that looked at race, income and education levels of students' neighborhoods when assigning children to schools.
But it has spent the past four years making changes to that plan after hearing numerous complaints from parents over long bus rides and the lack of access to neighborhood schools.
Student assignment has become an increasingly polarizing issue, as well as a political one. Several state politicians have incorporated it into their campaigns, including last year's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Sen. David Williams.
A new version of the district's student assignment plan took effect in elementary schools this fall. The new system classifies the district's 570 census areas using three categories based on income, minority population and average adult education.
Earlier this year, the board changed the plan again, voting to shake up the elementary clusters to further reduce the time students spend on buses. The latest change raises the number of elementary clusters for the 2013-14 school year from six to 13, but it also curtails the number of schools parents can choose from — from roughly 14 schools per cluster to six each.
Some desegregation advocates fear that could undermine the district's integration efforts, particularly in western Louisville, by giving minority and low-income families fewer school choices.
 More from the Herald-Leader:
The high court's ruling upholds the plan currently in use by Louisville's school district about how students are assigned to schools across the county. Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson wrote that state law is clear that school districts across Kentucky have the authority to distribute students throughout the district based on what the school board sees as the best method...

"Indeed, every single school board has to know its district and make decisions that are best suited to its student population," Abramson wrote for the five-member majority of the court.

Abramson wrote that the plaintiffs in the case may use the ballot box to change the plans...

Justice Bill Cunningham, joined by Justice David Venters, dissented, saying the state law that requires enrolling a student in a school also gives the student the right to attend the school of their choice.

"As hard as I try, I cannot read the statute in any way other than in its plain meaning," Cunningham wrote. "And, if we ask a thousand people what is meant by the term 'enroll in,' I vouch that every single person would say it includes the right to attend."


Anonymous said...

Yet another nail in the coffin of the moribund JCPS. Guarantees no significant change in the foreseeable future with the consequent loss of yet another generation of students. Sad but all too typical of the culture of mediocrity that permeates Kentucky government from top to bottom.

Richard Day said...

September 20, 2012 8:31 PM: You condemn the district with such a broad brush that it's difficult to know what exactly what you are referring to. Are you suggesting that the district remains mediocre because it continues to promote diversity among the students population?

Actually, the court's ruling is no guarantee of anything going forward. The legislature can change the law as it sees fit...and has it has done in the past.

Anonymous said...

Richard, exactly how many years do we continue to "promote diversity" before we realize that it was a catastrophic failure. How exactly did Manual became the only high school in the district that generates even the slightest enthusiasm among students?

Diversity, as used by this school board, is simply an excuse for the social engineers to use the public schools to implement half-baked notions of racial equity. It would be less grating if the proponents would simply be honest about their motivations but that is apparently impossible. So now, 20+ years into a monumentally failed experiment, we have intellectuals such as yourself continuing to ignore that which is blindingly visible to the affected parents; namely, the deliberate destruction of neighborhood schools in order to better integrate the community has utterly and completely failed.

You really have to be an intellectual version of the "bitter-clinger" to desperately hang onto the notion after all these years that shipping kids across the county based on skin color solves any societal problem.

Of course, this debacle is not unique to Louisville. The school busing "solution" to perceived educational inequity was undertaken in many metropolitan communities. It became a sort of judicial "fad" and for a while there seemed to be a competition amongst liberal federal judges to see who would be next to find their local school boards in violation of the law. It was an easy way for the left to undertake a large-scale social experiment across the country. They have all, without exception, proven to be complete failures. And yet, right here in River City, the ostrich approach still lingers as administrators willfully refuse to recognize that when you make it difficult for parents to be directly involved with their kids school, only bad things result. It is difficult enough to get parents involved in local neighborhood schools, but when they have to drive a good distance to some part of the community where they have no connections, you are simply asking for non-involvement. And non-involvement means failure. The single largest predictor of academic success is involved parents.

But, I suspect I am wasting my breath here as your entire blog is focused entirely on arcane educational theory and politics in that dry professorial tone that academics use when trying to impress one another. It is an arid passionless desert for anyone with a child in the local public schools seeking to understand why we can't have a better system.


Richard Day said...


Diversity is simply the human condition. If you believe it to be a failure, I suggest you consult our maker.

Your statement about Manual is, of course, overstatement. I suggest you refine it and try again.

You say JCPS folk are, "social engineers [using] the public schools to implement half-baked notions of racial equity" ?!

Did you mean to say that? I remember the time when conservatives were the social engineers and they used pseudoscience to maintain white supremacy. Are you advocating a return to those days?

It is precisely those days - when school districts kept students apart due to race and regardless of proximity to schools - which led us to where we are today.

If we had solid schools in every neighborhood and the system was not stacked against certain groups of students, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But we don't. Today's desegregation plans are the result (or vestiges) of a society which sought to deny certain citizens their citizenship.

These things aside, if one believes
that America, in the days of Obama, is post-racial, then I believe there is a logical way to agree with Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in Meredith v Jefferson. Let's just forget race.

On the other hand, if one believes that minorities still need some protections in order to enjoy the full rights of citizenship, then I suspect Roberts' opinion would be rejected. That's what I believe is currently prevailing in Louisville. But there's an election on the horizon and a few candidates have indicated that they would turn back the clock if they get in office.

The historic inequities were not simply perceived. The evidence was overwhelming - even to those who denied it.

The "judicial fad" occurred n Louisville while whites rioted and protested little back boys and girls being allowed to go to school with white kids. Discrimination wasn't hard to find at all - not even for judges - who had cases brought to them.

Both the left and the right get involved in social engineering - it is no one's exclusive property. If you had a magic wand and could resegregate Louisville by sending all kids to the nearest school, it could be seen as social engineering that promotes a certain world view.

You say, desegregation plans "have all, without exception, proven to be complete failures." I disagree with your opinion. They have all been a pain in the butt to implement to some degree or another, but I don't consider Fayette County to be a failure, as just one of many examples.

"The single largest predictor of academic success" is socio-economic status, not degree of parental involvement.

We do agree that "when you make it difficult for parents to be directly involved with their kids school" it is certainly not good. Parent and teachers can be powerful partners in the education of kids and that's how it should be. But just as their are imperfect situations within school districts - there are some pretty lousy parents out there too. But I take your point about long bus rides and great distances between the school and the home. But I wonder why rich folks don't find it problematic to send their kids to elite boarding schools.

I can only apologize for my professional tone, since I have no plans to change it.

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

For some inexplicable reason you cannot discuss education without bringing race and income into the mix. You prefer not to focus on the needs of smart kids versus not-so-smart kids or the needs of parents and communities to feel connected and involved. At the foundational level of your worldview on local education is some kind of race-guilt that you are incapable of moving past. You perfectly illustrate why the public school system is broken in this and many other communities. You view the schools as a laboratory for social engineering instead of their historical function to educate the masses. How did schools ever function in the 18th, 19th and most of the 20th century without all the current race-consciousness?

It's amazes me to see intelligent people behave as if they have invented some new form of education that is somehow better than that which built this nation into the worlds preeminent superpower. As I suggested in an earlier post, the stereotypical left-wing thinking on display here is inherently incapable of advocating or implementing the changes necessary to stop the inexorable decline in standards.

Educational policy on the left has fossilized into a macabre synthesis of constant and predictable demands for more money, ever more focus on ethnic, racial and gender awareness, massive bureaucratic centralized management and a remarkable inability to appreciate and learn from the incredibly rich and diverse history of teaching techniques and school management that have been proven to work.

There are schools in this community where a good case can be made that it is a form of child abuse to allow your child to attend. Why is it that your blog seems never to concern itself with such matters? One suspect it is because, down deep, you really don't have a clue how to fix those schools.

Nothing better illustrates the condescending thinking here better than your statement "The "judicial fad" occurred in Louisville while whites rioted and protested little back boys and girls being allowed to go to school with white kids." How easy it is for you to make the outrageous suggestion that folks who were upset that their children could no longer attend their local school were basically just a bunch of racists. No doubt there were some racists amongst the protestors but so what? Does their existence diminish the anguish of having some elitist, smug federal judge tell you that your kids are not going to the nearby school anymore because, of course, we know better than you what is good for our society? How would you have felt if your 17 year-old daughter had to leave her school after 11 years and attend some distant and unknown school for her senior year? No doubt that didn't happen to you, the federal judge or the families of any of the administrators who advocated the change. But it certainly happened to many families in this community and I have never heard one word of concern from the advocates of busing about these wounds. Such a monumental cultural change should never ever have resulted from the decision of one judge, in this or any community. It is hard to conceive of a more inappropriate usurpation of legislative authority. Have you ever considered whether the decision to bus students could have been made today? And if not, why not? A fascinating intellectual exercise that few liberals, if any, would spend a second on.

In any event Richard, the only hope for our public schools will come from innovative, outside-of-the-box thinking and that seems to be in very short supply on the left. Hidebound allegiance to unions, race and democratic politics will guarantee that your blog will be plowing all the same ground endlessly for many years to come.


Richard Day said...



You may wish it was otherwise but any analysis of the Ky Supreme Court decision, student assignment plans, bussing, or the Meredith case that ignores race isn’t worth a damn. It was (and is) the central question.

I promise, I didn’t just make this stuff up. But you really know that already, right?

The other issues you raise about parental involvement, distances some children travel on buses, etc., I agree, are real issues for many families. I ran schools for 25 years and I believe my record working with parents (including upscale white parents) was very strong. That’s why my PTA nominated me, and I was named Educator of the Year in 2002 or so – by the state PTA. I get what you are saying. But in legal cases it is fruitless to imagine some idealistic world that doesn’t fit the facts. The court looks at the law and the facts and this set of facts was about race.

I have no interest in social engineering on either side. But the way schools operated in the 18th and 19th early 20th century was that rich white kids got educated and poor kids (especially black kids) didn’t. If blacks were educated, it was massively in a separate system. I’m sorry if it’s uncomfortable for me to mention this, but you seem to present a rose-colored memory of history.

Ideally we should both hope for Justice Roberts to be right – suggesting that we have progressed past the point where any extraordinary government action to guarantee of citizenship rights to all citizens needs to be factored in. Lots of folks, like you, I suppose, think that day has already arrived. I’m doubtful.

If you can discern the difference between educational policy on the left and the right, you’re doing pretty well. With the exception of vouchers, which the right prefers and the left condemns, I see lots of support for corporate school reform on both sides. It’s where all of the money is. Calling what’s going on in today’s schools left-wing is simply inaccurate. It was the one thing Ted Kennedy and George W Bush agreed upon. Well, maybe immigration too...

Richard Day said...


I too am amazed when intelligent people behave as if they have invented some new form of education that is somehow better than that which built this nation into the world’s preeminent superpower. I’d hate to think what kind of country we would be without a strong system of public schools.

Standards are not declining. When test scores are announced (whenever) this fall, you should expect about a 30 point drop in reading and math over previous tests. This is because schools have moved to college-ready standards.

FYI, I support charter schools in a narrow set of conditions where the culture in a certain (usually inner city) school has been stagnant over many years. To my knowledge, I was the first principal in the state to attempt to open a charter schools. My son teachers at a charter school in Atlanta. Between the two of us, I suspect I’m the only one who know what it means to close an achievement gap and who has a history of running schools. I’m a far cry from perfect, but I think I’ve fixed a few educational issues in my day.

If my comments regarding the Louisville schools in the 70s seem condescending to you, I suggest that you consult the record. In fact video news reports of the riots are still available. Give ‘em a peek and help me understand why it was only white folks (not all white folks – I’m only referring to those who were protesting) who didn’t want black and white kids taught together. Watch the videos and read up on the events. I suggest Doyle’s Recalling the Record.

The truth shall set you free.
What the many “elitist, smug federal judges” said was that it was no longer OK for whites to prevent black kids from attending school with white kids. In the aftermath, about one half of white parents withdrew their kids from the Jefferson County public schools – many having to travel farther to reach these new private schools.

Why is that?

You ask if I have ever considered whether the decision to bus students could have been made today? Why, yes. That’s the point. Are we past the point where federal protections are necessary?

I’m not a big fan of teachers unions. I like them a whole lot better as teacher’s associations.
But the fact is that our top performing states in recent years (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey…) have been strong teachers union states. If unions are evil, or antithetical to good education, why is that?

Thanks again for your comments.

Anonymous said...


Continuing to promote educational policy based on perceived past injustices is pretty much a guarantor of failure. We can never "do enough" to make up for the bad behavior of our ancestors and the so-called beneficiaries of this guilt will never turn to us and say, "OK, thanks for all you have done now we are even." This is such a self-evident concept that it baffles me that you would continue to pursue this course of action.

The only solution that will actually lift folks mired in the dependency of white guilt is to adopt a color-blind attitude to all public policy decisions. No doubt sounds harsh to the perpetual hand-wringing class but there is literally no other way to move past race than to simply . . . move past race. Under your scenario I don't know how that ever happens, but the sooner the better as the folks you are pandering to with your solicitous high-minded concern over the treatment of their ancestors are not benefitted in the least by the special treatment. Call it "tough love" if you will but such a course is the only remedy for our racial ills. Have you not noticed that our first black president has not moved us even one small smidgen towards a "post-racial" society. Honestly, if that doesn't clue you in about the futility of race-based policies, I can't imagine what additional evidence you might need.

If I were a cynic I might surmise that the left continues to promote racial identity politics to ensure that the african-american community remains loyal to the party, but surely such base motivations are beneath you and your readers.


Richard Day said...

Continuing to promote education policy by ignoring past injustices is pretty much a guarantee of replicating them.

If any reparations are due historically marginally people surely it would be ensuring a high quality education for every neighborhood - not as a response to guilt, or a desire for thanks.

It’s simple justice.

I’m not pursuing any course of action other than to say I’m not sure we have arrived at a post-racial America yet. It would be great if I’m wrong about that. Don’t you agree?

Here was my favorite of your loaded statements: “The only solution that will actually lift folks mired in the dependency of white guilt is to adopt a color-blind attitude to all public policy decisions.” I was trying to remember if that came from Romney’s 47% speech or not. I’m not opposed to tough love…as long as its love.

I’m not a huge fan of Obama’s education policies and don’t think he has done much to advance equity in the schools. This has been a surprise to me, but I suppose, being black, he does not feel compelled to advance racial issues directly. His justice department did shift from Bush’s emphasis on issues of religious freedom to the more traditional social justice issues – at times stretching the bounds of legal interpretation – but I don’t have the studied background to go much further with exactly what his administration has done or not done.

Again, I’m not promoting racial identity politics. But when I analyze a court case where racial politics were central to the court’s judgment, neither am I willing to ignore the unpleasant past because it is unpleasant.

Anonymous said...

I am not a historian but for the life of me I cannot think of one instance in human history where the deliberate cultivation of dependency of a "historically marginally people" ended well for anyone. Or ever ended at all for that matter. Richard, exactly how does your racial sensitivity/preferences program ever reach a termination point? Does the electoral dependency of the democratic party on the votes of these oppressed people factor into your answer?

You absolutely are promoting racial identity politics. I say this with some certitude as you and your party clearly feel that the bad behavior of our ancestors towards african-americans entitles them to special political considerations pretty much forever. And you would have me believe that it is purely coincidental that those same people vote 85% democratic election after election? I am sure there are a few pure-hearted souls who don't care about the mutual aid aspect, but such behavior is the basis for machine politics in cities all over this country. And you are way too bright to even hint otherwise. It is a transparent political game of spoils politics and everyone knows it. The left panders to the black community and the black community responds with votes. Seldom is the the pandering ever truly helpful and often quite destructive. Democratic education policy is totally constrained from demanding anything that upsets the status quo of the (1) black community, (2) the teachers unions or (3) the entrenched administrative bureaucracy.

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to listen to highly educated, articulate and informed speakers such as yourself who are determined to remain relentlessly mired in the same old hopeless effort to fine-tune and tweak local education policy with the notion that such tiny adjustments will effect major changes in outcome. It simply cannot be done within the almost non-existent wriggle-room allowed by the 3 power groups referenced above.

For a number of years in the 70's I was a flaming liberal. Even donated money to George McGovern's campaign and still keep the cancelled check to remind myself of how anyone can be sucked into the "politics of compassion" that the left likes to dangle in front of idealistic young people. When I started my own business, hired employees, met payroll and negotiated the landmines of local, state and federal government regulations, my eyes gradually opened to the false gods that the left wanted me to worship. I find it depressing that there are still so many people from my generation who continue to buy into the utopian panaceas that the left is selling.

Richard, I truly understand the generous spirit behind the desire to help improve the lot of the historically oppressed. Regrettably, history clearly shows that setting expectations higher rather than lower is the only path to improvement. In education or any other aspect of life. When I say "setting expectations higher" I am referring to the implementation of attendance, deportment and academic expectations that would inevitably result in one or two additional "lost generations" of students. Tough medicine for sure, but, in the end, the non-serious students absolutely must be separated from the serious students if the public school system is to be rehabilitated. Such a "harsh" solution is inconceivable within the current power structure, hence I have no hope for meaningful change. The current system offers only marginal "tinkering" around the edges and it amazes me that you are willing to spend a professional career defending the fantasy that such changes are significant.


Richard Day said...


If I saw governmental actions to assure equality and help the least of these…as the “deliberate cultivation of dependency,” I’d probably agree with you – but I don’t. While I would not dispute that some percentage of poor folks abuse the system (we actually hear quite a bit of that sort of thing from our Corbin faculty whose students are encouraged by some elders to live off the dole – and it is debilitating when it occurs) the larger effect nationally is that folks who need help get some assistance. By that means, many families have become better off, employed, healthier…at least until the recent economic crisis.

Now I’ll suggest something you’ll really hate: that LBJ’s Great Society programs did far more to help the poor than any president in recent memory. Did you know that achievement gaps were closing in America until Reaganomics dismantled most of the program supports for housing, adult education, and health care?

I’m not Democrat enough to defend what the party does but I see pandering on both sides. I believe Congress has earned its sub-10% approval rating.

I share one of your frustrations. I too, have a hard time accepting that other smart people may not agree with me. What’s up with that? But yet, I see it all the time.

I also have a checkered past, having spoken in high school assembly in favor of the election of Richard Nixon in ‘68. I am the product of a mixed marriage: Mom’s family were Goldwater Republicans, Dad’s folks were very independent Democrats. As I think about it, maybe that wasn’t so bad considering that many of Nixon’s policies would not be acceptable in today’s Republican Party.

I wonder if your reminder of the evils of idealism extends to the present, or do you envision a society that does not yet exist?
I suspect we would agree on the importance of high standards, an education that builds a productive person, attendance (which means more than just being physically present), deportment, academic expectations…the works. I don’t see the lost generations you seem to see.(I was glad to see that Paul Tough's book is out this week. I haven't seen it yet but understand that he is focusing on the non-cognitive indicators of success - something I believe our corporate School reformers have missed almost completely.)

I see districts establishing alternative schools in an attempt to continue educating those students who have not made it in the regular system, but they haven’t been, and aren’t’ likely to become a cure-all. But by some means, all kids need an education, not because it makes them better - but because it makes us better when everyone is productive.

Thanks for the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Dear Richard,

It is interesting how history goes full circle. We found out tofay that Fayette County Schools now has a lawyer again.

I am surprised, after Brenda Allen's firing, that this happened. I'm even more surprised that it was not reported.

I hope you'll give some coverage to this. And, please, let's find out more about teh principal at Cardinal Valley.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Richard, you and Erik have a had a nice exchange on diversity, but let's devote some coverage to FCPS.

Hey, are you game for filing an open records request to see how much the guest speaker cost our distrct for the opening convocation at Rupp Arena? I bet it was at least 30,000 for all of us to be packed into Rupp Arena to hear Manny lecture us on diversity.... And this at a time when we can barely get the money we need for school related services.

Thanks for considering it...

Richard Day said...

...don't have the time just now.

Of course, this process is facilitated when readers become sources.

Anonymous said...

It's called "forced Busing" because they did't want to call it Marxism.