JCPS assignment plan aims for diversity, may not be successful


by Renee Murphy

Posted on May 1, 2014 at 11:50 PM

Updated Friday, May 2 at 12:09 AM

LOUISIVLLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- It's one of the most controversial topics in this community, the student assignment plan for JCPS.

For years critics have said the districts low income students are assigned to schools farthest from their home.
Busing is where the assignment starts, getting the students to the school.

“It can be a pain in the butt for parents,” mom Cindy Grimes said.

The student assignment is one of the more confusing aspects of the whole plan for everyone, especially parents to understand.

 “You have these clusters of schools that no one understands how they make any sense,” mom Deborah Goldberg said.

Both of these are supposed to obtain diversity across the district.

So who is being sent to schools farthest from their home? Now a real picture of the district’s plan is emerging.

“It's not balanced and it's not fair. It validates everything I have been saying for the past 14 years,” civil rights attorney Teddy Gordon said.

He believes that more minority students are sent to the lowest performing schools or schools farthest from their homes.

“This should show better balance of numbers and obviously it does not,” Gordon said.

The iTeam looked at a sampling of schools from East Louisville and West Louisville.

The district assigns students based on a variety of factors - one is diversity which includes socio-economics and race.

Students are assigned to 3 categories:

Category 1 students are mostly in the West End, lower income, more minorities, with parents who have less college education.
Category 2 students are mostly white, middle class.
Category 3 students are mostly white, more affluent with many parents having a college degree.

At the schools sampled there were only 26 category 3 students attending school in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, compared to 87 category 1 students in more affluent communities.

Gordon said this shows the districts mission for diversity only sends minority students outside their neighborhood and not white students.

“The white students and their parents would protest going to a poor performing school,” Gordon said.

Those from Jefferson County Public Schools disagree.

“We try to share diversity among all our students,” Dena Dossett, Director of Planning and Diversity for JCPS said. “Overall we have in the district more category 1 students as we do category 3.”

At the elementary level there are 32 percent category 1 students compared to 18 percent category 3.

There are a variety of reasons why a student goes to school that’s not close to their home - not only because that is where they are assigned

“40 percent of our families choose to go to schools that are not their neighborhood schools,” Dossett said.

Parents like Shiree Ratliff, who lives in the West End, sends her daughter to Ballard High School off Brownsboro road.

“I wanted her to go to a decent school and that was the best school I heard about was Ballard,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff sends her daughter to school on the city's TARC bus. She questions how much the district spends on busing students.

“To me that’s where we are wasting taxpayer money on that,” Ratliff said.

The district spends $69 million dollars a year on transportation – 25 percent of that is for special needs students.

“We see that our transportation time and ride times are equivalent on average students spend about 27 minutes on the bus that’s minority students as well as non minority students,” Dossett said. “It’s not really about forcing students it centers around the balance of choice and diversity and having high quality experiences for all children.”