All Eyes on Kentucky!

When I first tell people Kentucky’s Constitutional Amendment to ban abortions is a centerpiece of my campaign for JCPS school board (Louisville, KY), I am usually met with a look of scorn, as if I’m conflating issues or drawing unnecessary political or even gender divides.

When I remind them that some of our students will be getting pregnant, and that 10-year-old girls might be forced to give birth to their rapist’s babies, their expression quickly turns to concern. I remind them that we will need to restore investments in drop-out prevention and childcare programs, such as our heralded TAPP school, as well as trauma counseling, healthy relationships and more. We will also need to provide comprehensive, medically accurate sex education curriculum in our schools in an effort to curb the cycle of childhood pregnancies and sexual abuse.

I also remind them we already have a teacher and staffing shortage, yet more district employees who get pregnant will be forced to carry unwanted or medically unsafe pregnancies to term or seek clandestine and dangerous medical care, only adding more pressure to short-staffed school environments. Shortly after the decision was overturned by our ill-gotten Supreme Court, I published a blog piece on my website entitled, “What Does the Reversal of Roe Vs. Wade Have to Do with Public Education?

As a woman who has been pregnant on several occasions, I can speak about my own experiences with medical care, complications, private conversations with family members and medical professionals, and difficult personal decisions that can come into play with each pregnancy. I can attest to the importance of a person’s right to make our own healthcare decisions. My male opponents can’t and won’t touch this issue, despite it being on everyone’s minds.

With a trigger law already enacted in Kentucky, and a Constitutional Amendment on Kentucky’s November ballot that would permanently and totally ban abortion in our state, we are already seeing signs that progressive voters in Louisville will be showing up in full force this November.

We have known that outside special interest groups and billionaires have been infiltrating our school boards and elected positions for years, but they’ve gotten bolder as of late. A coordinated effort by at least one Christian nationalist group out of Texas has been targeting school board races this election cycle. And there is an entire slate of endorsed dark-money “liberty” candidates running for every open seat in my district. Several other groups, also out of Texas, appear to be putting their thumb on the scale of races in a dozen or so districts across the state. They are not part of our community, nor do they represent the values and views of the majority of us who do live here. What does this have to do with JCPS? We have documented many of these same individuals who have been attending our meetings also organizing anti-abortion rallies and even hanging our Democratic governor in effigy, while our super-majority GOP legislature stripped him of his emergency powers during a pandemic.

The “Liberty Caucus” challenger in my District 3 race is in lockstep with a local chapter of a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group, which has dogwhistles like “stop the steal” and “the gay agenda” on their website. He helped lead protesters at a recent anti-mask rally as they demanded our board overturn a masking policy that was aligned with CDC recommendations and had been in effect since the end of the previous school year; a decision that had just been unanimously renewed by the board just two weeks prior. We recognize these “bad actors” as having also been part of the “school choice” movement, anti-CRT and anti-mask rhetoric and other disinformation campaigns. They are preying on the trust and innocence of Kentucky’s God-fearing and faithful residents. Just as they have done in our rural mining and farming communities, they are exploiting their access to historically oppressed and disenfranchised groups. A strategy which has become entrenched under Mitch McConnell’s eternally failed leadership.

The union-endorsed incumbents in three of the four races in Louisville’s sprawling urban public school system will likely face little difficulty holding on to their seats, due to the fact that they are not “liberty candidates” and they do not have a more progressive challenger. Mine is the only race where the incumbent has a challenger who is demonstrably more progressive, and who has not only demonstrated the wherewithal to recognize these predatory practices and tactics, but has a proven track record of leading the charge against them. Me.

In fact, the incumbent in my race has been caught signaling to the disruptive white nationalists that he is willing to give in to their ridiculous demands in order to get reelected, leaving me as the stand-alone progressive challenger, not just in my race, but in all four district races. I am the only challenger who has demonstrated the ability and courage to push back on the gamesmanship of these same domestic terrorists who have harassed me and others at our school board meetings, and even caused a board meeting to be shut down prematurely last October, preventing nearly two dozen signed up speakers from being heard. In fact, the teachers’ union has quietly endorsed the incumbent who already caved. Maybe they are hoping no one will notice.

This is where I could use your help. We can’t compete dollar for dollar with the dark money that’s backing the “liberty” candidates. Nor can we summon the millions of PAC dollars, labor, resources and social capital the teachers’ union can and will put forth for the enabling incumbent. The only way we are going to protect our public schools from these predators and their enablers is through word of mouth. We accomplished a similar feat in 2016 when the community rallied around the removal of unpopular JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens. It became clear that they only way we were going to get rid of her was to get rid of the Humana heir turned JCPS Board Chair who continued to use the school board as his personal instrument of venture capitalism, charity and white saviorism, despite being caught in the act on several occasions. The teachers’ union did not endorse in that race, but a grassroots parent teacher advocacy group I run called Dear JCPS held a candidate interest meeting where Chris Kolb was in attendance. Six years ago, with the support of our members and other social justice groups in town, Kolb handily beat Jones. Word of mouth worked then and it can work now. Especially once people take notice of the questionable actions of the District 3 incumbent, seemingly enabled by the past-his-prime teachers’ union president, both of whom present themselves as cis white men. Meanwhile, the union PAC, which is tightly controlled by the 22+-year president, seems to have endorsements that frequently go against members’ express opinions and wishes. He has been caught creating unwanted member surveys about masking, which ripped open political wounds for no other apparent purpose than to jeopardize a board vote that had just passed unanimously two weeks prior. This manufactured crisis gave the incumbent the opportunity to garner some “earned media” and appear to be the hero to the same anti-masker, book-burning, abortion-banning radicals who are clearly using our board meetings to recruit and radicalize their base for the next treasonous act. Since we can’t seem to get our local officials to track or stand up to these dangerous predators, we need #AllEyesOnKentucky.

You don’t have to live in my district or even in Kentucky to make a difference. You can make a donation, volunteer and share our posts on social media. A lot can happen in two months. Especially in Louisville, Kentucky, home of Breonna Taylor, heart of a DOJ Patterns and Practices investigation of LMPD, where Federal Charges were just brought by Merrick Garland against four officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder, where Rand Paul’s US Senate Seat is being challenged by Charles Booker, there’s a Constitutional amendment on abortion, and now a critical and contentious school board race.

Get ready for the thunder!