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Bill stripping JCPS' school board passes both chambers - chair, member concerned

"If they want to govern our local school board, maybe they need to run for that office instead,” Jefferson County Public School Board Member Sarah McIntosh said.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Thursday evening that would strip power from the Jefferson County School (JCPS) Board and give complete authority to the district's superintendent.

The bill passed on a 21-15 vote; it has now passed both chambers.

JCPS Board Member Sarah McIntosh said this move would leave the community without a voice. She said parents, teachers and stakeholders voted them into office, so lawmakers in Frankfort shouldn't have the right to disregard that.

"If they want to govern our local school board, maybe they need to run for that office instead,” McIntosh said. "To undermine that experience, and that passion, and that care for political gain and a few cheap points at the ballot box is just really, really the worst of what politics has to offer."

Senate Bill 1 would give JCPS superintendents the authority to choose curriculum, which has become an increasingly contentious issue in some school districts across the country. The curriculum would have to include, "designated core American documents."

"To be able to get back to the American principles of what we need to be learning," Senator Max Wise (R) said. "Learn from our mistakes. Learn from atrocities. Learn about the good. Learn about the bad."

Also under the bill, the selection of school principals would be put in the hands of superintendents.

"Superintendents were being held accountable for principals they didn't have a hand in hiring," Rep. C. Ed Massey (R) said on the House Floor Tuesday.

McIntosh said if the bill were in good faith then it wouldn't single out one district.

"Not just Jefferson County targeted by this, but all 171 districts across the state,” McIntosh said.

She said she knows every school board decision wasn't popular, but McIntosh said members were trying to walk a line. Now, she said no community voices will be represented.

The bill went through several amendments before passage. According to the Kentucky General Assembly, the most recent amendments include requiring the superintendent to consult with the local board regarding curriculum and change when the local boards of education meet. Instead of a maximum frequency of once every eight weeks, it would be once every four weeks.

In a statement Wednesday, Board Chair Diane Porter said she was surprised to hear about those changes. 

"The attempt to restrict the authority of a duly elected board of education for the state's largest majority-minority district is very concerning and perhaps unconstitutional," said Porter.

She adds everyone in Jefferson County should be concerned.

Porter said she'll push for legal action if changes weren't made to the final version of the bill.

It now heads to Gov. Andy Beshear's desk.

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