Bill could limit school choice in Kentucky

House Committee passes JCPS neighborhood bill

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- House Bill 151 is on its way to the House floor for a vote.

“I'm glad it passed the committee. It's time for us and students especially in Jefferson County to be able to attend the school closest to their home,” says Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-District 29.

“I think there's more information that they need regarding the choices that our parents are able to make,” said Dr. Donna Hargens, JCPS.

The bill, sponsored by Louisville Republican Kevin Bratcher, will ensure students can enroll in the school they live closest to.

“Many times they're being told they cannot go to their neighborhood school and that they have to go across town and they're tired of that. Many parents are tired of it,” Rep. Bratcher said.

The bill excludes traditional and magnet schools, but JCPS superintendent Donna Hargens says their current enrollment program is important to parents--saying 49 percent of parents enrolling their kids in kindergarten chose a school further away from home. She says 91 percent of parents surveyed were happy with their school assignment last year.

“I think what is valued in Jefferson County by parents is the ability to choose--to choose a close school or two schools away that meets the needs of their students,” said Dr. Hargens.

Under the current system, parents have a cluster of schools to choose from based on where they live.  Superintendent Hargens says the average bus ride is less than 30 minutes, but Representative Bratcher says his constituents disagree.

“There's many parents in my district who have been complaining for eight years.  It's just something I believe the people in Jefferson County want this.  They want neighborhood schools,” he said.

Many representatives also questioned the diversity in schools if the bill did pass.  Louisville Democrat Attica Scott voted against the bill.  Rep. Scott says much of the discussion focused on the achievement gap and not enough on the success of many minority students.

“That is disgusting and offensive and not one comment was made about black students being scholars and achievers, leaders, our future,” said Rep. Attica Scott, D-District 41.

She says school choice is important to parents.

“I would not put my babies on buses for them to go to war zones,” she said.

But Representative Bratcher says it's time for a change.

“My purpose is to allow parents to send their child to the school right down the street instead of getting on the bus for an hour and going across town.  It passes the common sense test, and I think that's why this vote passed today,” he said.

“Many of the representatives who did vote in favor of this bill say that they hope that there's a lot of discussion on the House floor so they can learn more about the bill and what it entails.  

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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