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'The last straw': Kentucky lawmakers request audit of JCPS, a month after transportation fiasco

The letter, sent on September 7, was signed by 12 Kentucky representatives and senators.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A new audit of the Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) district's finances and management could be on the horizon, if a group of Republican state lawmakers have their request granted.

The call to look into Kentucky's largest public school district came as a letter to the state Auditor Mike Harmon. It comes a month after the transportation meltdown on the first day of school that forced multiple days of cancelations.

The request, sent on September 7, was signed by 12 Kentucky representatives and senators. In the letter, they sound the alarm about the issues within JCPS -- even beyond the transportation woes.

"I think the busing issues were the last straw, [but] they weren't the core of the issue. The core of the issue is much, much larger," State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-33) of Middletown said.

Rep. Nemes told WHAS11 that they've been planning to ask Kentucky's auditor to investigate for a while, calling the transportation issues the tip of the iceberg.

"Are we getting the dollars and resources into the classroom?" He said.

The letter referenced the last time Kentucky's auditor examined the massive school district, nearly 10 years ago. It was a report that found JCPS' current leadership structure, including the Board of Education, to be inadequate.

Some lawmakers say the current issues, including student violence and academic performance, highlight ''the need for structural change to the district."

Nemes said the group of state lawmakers who signed the request will be meeting with the auditor's office in the next couple weeks to "start the process of planning, what it looks like, and what questions they'll go into."

But JCPS officials pushed back on the intents of the letter, saying independent audits are a regular thing they do -- noting a handful of assessments done over the last six years, largely led by the Kentucky Department of Education.

In a statement, JCPS spokesperson Carolyn Callahan said, "We cannot ignore the concerns that this audit may be politically motivated, rather than an impartial review of our operations."

She continued, "Instead of forcing JCPS to spend money on this audit, the legislature should prioritize investing in our schools directly to ensure quality education for all students."

JCPS officials say they welcome another assessment of their operations, as long as it's fair and unbiased.

Meanwhile, Louisville attorney and State Representative Nima Kulkarni, a Democrat, says the question that remains is whether the Legislature's effort is the best usage of time and resources given JCPS' current problems.

"We have so much underfunded need in our school system," Kulkarni said. "What we need to look at is what has been found deficient in the reviews and audits that have been conducted -- because again, this is taxpayer money."

WHAS11 News also asked Nemes, whether the end goal of this effort is to split up the school district?

"No, it's part of that conversation. It certainly is to push progress," he said. "If the right thing to do is to have a split of the district, then the audit will push in that direction -- I suppose."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Harmon's office told us the request is under review by their team, but they didn't give a timeline for their decision.

Nemes though says he's confident an inspection will happen sooner rather than later.

Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at IKimMartin@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

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