Why Should We Invest in Our Schools?
FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE occurs when we commit to teach all children by addressing each individual student’s needs through excellent programs, support services, administration, and staff. Well-educated children grow up to earn more and give more back to the community.
Superintendent Pollio wants to invest to make change, with a focus on increased equity for JCPS’ most disadvantaged youth. He proposed that three quarters of the new revenue be focused on
- increased pay for teachers so that we attract, hire, train and retain great staff, including an intensive teacher residency program
- increased supports for schools with lowest average proficiency rates—pay incentives for experienced teachers and administrators, smaller class size, additional programming and support staff
- year-round extended learning opportunities for students struggling with math and literacy proficiencies, including expanding Summer Backpack League for 10,000 students
Superintendent Pollio proposes to focus the final quarter of new revenue providing bonding capacity to meet half of the District’s building renovation and new construction needs. These new buildings and renovations will cost more than $1B over the next ten years. Within that work, he is urging the board to prioritize three new West End schools so that for the first time in 30 years more than 6,000 West End students can choose—like all other JCPS students now—a neighborhood school.
- In the last 5 years, JCPS has lost $42 million in state funding.
- State funding for textbooks and professional development for teachers has been CUT to $0.
- Nationally, teachers spend on average $475 a year of their own money on school supplies. Teachers in large, urban districts spend more.
- Expanding JCPS’s successful Academies of Louisville requires funding. The Academies teach career-ready skills to the next generation of carpenters, mechanics, healthcare workers and other blue- and white-collar employees.
- JCPS has one of the most diverse enrollments in the state: 5,000 homeless students; 8,000 English language learners; 12,000 with special needs and over 60,000 in the free- and reduced-lunch program. The District needs to invest in the intensive supports and programs that these students need in order to be successful.
- Some students with multiple disabilities may each cost $50,000 to $100,000 annually to prepare them for a successful life; these are students that private schools won’t accept. Title I students (those from low-income households) cost about $14,000 annually to educate. Much of the remaining 25% of the student population may cost about $11,000. Federal funds pay only one-sixth of the required additional services for Title I students. Contrast that with JCPS’s neighboring district of Anchorage Independent Schools, whose student population is 88% white with only 7.3% students are eligible for Title I support: Anchorage Independent spends $22,274 per pupil to educate their students.
PROFESSIONAL WORK FORCE
- Recruiting and retaining good teachers requires salaries that reflect their worth, their education, and our economy. Teachers create all other jobs; excellent, highly qualified teachers create a vibrant future economy for our community. Yet, JCPS teachers received less than 1% raises in seven of the last nine years. One-third of JCPS teachers have been in the district less than five years. Forty-four percent of new teachers will leave the profession in their first five years. JCPS, like all districts nationwide, needs to constantly recruit new teachers. We do not want to become like Arizona, where one-third of teachers are either not certified in the subject they teach or not certified at all! Our students deserve excellent, highly skilled educators who care about them.
- The need for a professional and highly qualified staff doesn’t end with teachers: we need for JCPS to be able to recruit and retain other career professionals such as bookkeepers, secretaries, counselors, mental-health professionals, nurses and teacher assistants who will be dedicated to our students.
- With COVID-19 and its resultant job losses, traumas and difficulties, JCPS needs more nurses and mental-health counselors in schools than we already have.
- More than 6,000 students from West Louisville could choose a school in their neighborhoods, but only if we have enough money for Dr. Marty Pollio’s proposal of at least three new schools in West Louisville. Providing these options for the students of Louisville’s West End will require a $139 million investment.
- If we want all of Louisville’s families to have the ability to choose a school for their children that is near home and convenient for parents and students alike, JCPS would need to build more than the high school, two middle schools, and elementary that have been proposed. That would require additional investments beyond the School Board’s current proposal of $70 per $100,000 of property valuation!
- More than 30 JCPS schools are considered at the “end of life”. Already, at JCPS’s newest high school (Ballard, built in 1968), its football field was condemned, and Shawnee High School hasn’t been able to use its third floor for decades. The District will need to replace or renovate them within eight years.
- JCPS’s newest high school opened in 1968; Fayette County has built four new high schools since then. In the past decade, Fayette County has built 10 new schools, while JCPS has built one.
- There are no synthetic-turf athletic fields at any JCPS school. All six Fayette County high schools have at least one.
- In Jefferson County, the average home is valued at $146,000. An increase of 7¢ in property tax would cost the homeowner about 30¢ a day and approximately $103 per year.
- Research shows when the state invests in appropriate programs and services for struggling schools, student assessment scores and behavior improve. We’ve seen the opposite effect when schools experience funding cuts from the state: those gains in assessment and student behavior disappear, proving the need for the extra funds.
- JCPS has one of the lowest tax assessments in its area — less than Fayette County and 25¢ less than neighboring Anchorage! Our children deserve better than crumbling buildings and a lack of effective programs!
- Adjusted for inflation, Kentucky spent 13% less per student in 2019 than in 2008. That ranks Kentucky as the fourth worst in the nation for state-level spending cuts over the last decade, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy.
- About 30% of school property tax revenues collected in Jefferson County are redistributed to other, poorer Kentucky counties. State law allows JCPS to increase property tax revenues by up to 4% per year, but local property taxes make up 40% of the JCPS General Fund and the District’s other revenue sources are flat or declining.
- A little more than 6,000 students are bused solely for racial diversity. The remainder of students who are bused go to magnet and traditional schools, they live too far to walk, or they receive transportation services because they are students with special needs or are enrolled in Early Childhood programs. Ending busing from the West End solely for diversity leaves just under 60,000 students still on a bus. JCPS transportation budget (2017): $62.1 million ($37.7 million for transportation, $24.4 million for vehicle maintenance)
NON-TRADITIONAL INSTRUCTION (NTI, OR DISTANCE LEARNING)
- NTI is not the money money-saver some people think. JCPS got $29.7 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for its own use. That still wasn’t enough to cover all of this spring’s NTI expenses.
- To truly provide effective NTI, schools would also have to guarantee every child an acceptable computing device and reliable wi-fi. That would require an additional investment to cover families who weren’t covered in the spring.
- Effective NTI also requires more teacher training. At this point, Kentucky is providing two full days of training during the summer; however, there are not enough “seats” for every teacher to attend.
- Some children have no adult at home to supervise NTI. That requires centers where there can be supervision and tutoring using CDC safety guidelines. That means very small class sizes for those who need it most.
- Students with special needs require a significantly greater investment in more highly-skilled supervision and tutoring than other students.