Motion filed in JCPS suit, Mayor pressed for opinion on plan

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 30, 2010 at 6:40 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) --   It's back to court for the embattled student assignment plan of Jefferson County Public Schools.   An attorney challenging the plan has filed a second motion asking Circuit Court Judge Irv Maze to reconsider his dismissal of a lawsuit filed by parents opposed to the plan.
   Maze ruled that a Kentucky state law that gives students the right to enroll in the school closest to their homes does not overrule the Jefferson County plan because the students are merely allowed to "enroll" in such schools, but not actually "attend" them.  The General Assembly had removed the words "for attendance" from the statute in 1990, so Maze said the legislative intent was to only provide access for students to apply to neighborhood schools.
   However, plaintiff's attorney Teddy Gordon says the district's own words are proving his points.  "Since that time, not only has Superintendent Berman, board members, and, of course, administrators of the Jefferson County Board, as well as state senators, have used the two words that are the focal point of the opinion, enroll and attend, interchangeably," Gordon said.  "I find it interesting there was no documentation of any of those claims in his affidavit," Berman responded, "because I haven't seen that."
   Gordon acknowledged that it is extremely unlikely that the judge will reopen the case, and Berman agreed.  "I think it's fairly standard reconsideration," Berman explained, "but I don't think it will be any more credible than the first one was, and I don't foresee it changing anything."  However, Gordon says it is inevitable that the case will end up before the Kentucky Supreme Court.  "I think that Teddy's served to keep the pot stirred, but I think that this issue won't be resolved in courts," Berman said.
   Berman also says community support for the school district will prevail, even as school board member Carol Haddad has publicly called for a less complex plan, and school board candidates are emerging who are challenging the student assignment plan.  Still, Berman is steadfast in maintaining the plan.  "I don't foresee major changes on the school board in terms of its direction around student assignment," Berman said, "I think there will always be modifications that are made and we continue to revise and think about it carefully."
   Gordon called for parents opposed to the plan to support school board candidates with similar views and state Senate and representative candidates who line up behind the Neighborhood Schools Bill pre-filed in Frankfort last week, which would reassert students' rights to attend the school closest to their homes, space permitting.  "If they are against the current form of the student assignment plan, parents need to know that and they need to vote for them," Gordon said.
   Meanwhile, in their first public appearance together since Berman called on civic leaders to support the student assignment plan, Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson was asked whether he supports the plan.  "Obviously, the first couple of days were difficult days in terms of the way several of the schools handled it," Abramson said, "but you know, I've always been a strong proponent for local elected officials making local decisions."
   When asked repeatedly whether he backed the student assignment plan, Abramson instead said it was up to parents and the school board to decide, and he criticized the Neighborhood Schools Bill, saying the state legislature should not interfere with local decisions.
   It is not quite the public endorsement of the student assignment plan that Sheldon Berman is seeking from community leaders.  "I think the community will come to our aid in that, and I think we'll see business leaders and others come to our aid in saying this is important," Berman said, "this is a discussion we've been having for 35 years.  We have really determined and committed to diversity and maintaining diversity and seeing that as a rich quality within the system."
   Abramson said his experience as a parent whose child went through the JCPS system left him satisfied.  "I found the public school system and the system to work well.  It doesn't mean it shouldn't be tweaked. It doesn't mean that the school board members who have taken clear positions about working with the superintendent to make changes over time, but I think local elected officials should make the decision,” Abramson said.  "We've got a school board," Abramson continued, "every one of us gets the vote for an elected school board member and he or she should reflect the thinking in the community, and I think they've done that in the past."
   When asked how important is it for the mayor in this community to have a public statement to back up the plan, Abramson replied, "I've always been available to make very clear public statements in terms of where I stand, and I think I've done it, again."
 

 

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