In case you missed any of the candidate forums, we wanted to put them all in one convenient place. It took nearly three weeks after the League of Women Voters forum for them to post it on their Facebook page, so you may have missed it completely. There were some heated exchanges during and after some of the forums. Some day I hope more people get to understand what happened.
Louisville is home to the largest school district in Kentucky. In fact, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is three times larger than our state’s next largest school district, which is in Lexington. These two counties, along with a few progressive bright spots here and there, are the main reason we had the good fortune of electing a calm and collected Democratic governor who was able to protect Kentuckians from a cruel and vindictive GOP supermajority during the pandemic. So, just because we are a red state that’s been in an eternal chokehold by Senator Mitch McConnell does not mean we are a lost cause. In fact, I predict that the chain of events, that began with an abortion trigger law passing the KY General Assembly in 2019, to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, to a proposed amendment to the Kentucky Constitution to make the trigger law permanent and irreversible on the Nov. 8 ballot, is the perfect storm we have been waiting for.
Since 2017, the Kentucky legislature has passed 15 bills that have restricted access to abortion in the state. Among them is a 2019 law… that would ban abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant. That same year, Kentucky passed a “trigger law,” that calls for banning all abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Kentucky is also the largest of six states that does not have charter schools or vouchers, yet.
Charter schools are run by private boards and funded with public money. They’ve technically been legal in Kentucky since 2017, but there are not yet any because lawmakers didn’t create a permanent funding mechanism for them until 2022. Numerous bodies must create regulations before would-be charter boards can apply to open schools.
Former KY Governor Matt Bevin made charter schools central to his term in office, which also helped make him a one-term governor. Voters successfully replace him in 2019, but the supermajority GOP took advantage of the pandemic and passed the bills we had successfully stopped until then.
JCPS operates 167 schools across nearly 400 square miles, and consists of the entirety of all public school students in downtown and West Louisville and dozens of surrounding neighborhoods and incorporated towns that make up our consolidated Louisville Metro Government after our city and county governments merged in 2001. In 1975, busing was implemented and for the last 40 years has been used as a political tool to act like we’re “doing something” when all we’re really doing is denying predominantly Black West Louisville families access to the same opportunities as everyone else, causing even more harm.
The district defines “market share” as the % of students in a resides location attending a Jefferson County Public School. Since 2017, the district’s population has declined from 96,275 to 92,786 in 2022. This also represents a sharp drop in market share from a steady 80.7% or higher three years in a row to 79% or less since the onset of the pandemic.
At the same time, percentages of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch have increased. These figures indicate that the higher saturation levels of poverty could be due to the exodus of a higher percentage of students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch, who may have alternatives available, such as home schooling or private school enrollment. It could also indicate families who were not previously living in poverty may have experienced economic hardship since the pandemic. Either way, JCPS struggles in attracting and retaining students whose families economic situations reduce the poverty saturation levels, when doing so would make drastic and lasting improvements in the outcomes of all of our students, and help us create a roadmap to closing achievement gaps and opportunities.
With more than 20% of Jefferson County’s school-aged children attending a non-public school, the opportunities to not only stop the market share decline but to recapture some of those students so that we align more closely to the national average of 12% attending non-public school, means 8,000 to 10,000 higher performing students could be attracted to choose a public school if the offerings met their needs and expectations. What a positive difference not only having the agency and advocacy of these families showing up for our students, but a dramatic shift in demographics that could make for ALL of Jefferson County students and taxpayers.
As I entertained images of a lantern-waving Paul Revere riding horseback through the night to wake up his neighbors and alert them of the impending life-threatening invasion by colonizing troops, I thought about titling this post “The Fascists Are Coming.” I hoped it would conjure up the emotions and urgency that both he and I no doubt shared. But to do so wouldn’t be entirely accurate, you see, because the fascists are already here.
On Friday, August 9, 2022, I turned in a 42-page complaint with KREF about the dark money endorsements and disinformation campaigns we see making their way around our communities. When you consider the exhibits and attachments, my complaint was probably over 100 pages regarding groups who fail to identify themselves properly in their endorsement of candidates that align with a fascist, Christian white nationalist, SPLC-designated hate group agenda. We don’t really know who is behind these efforts, but many of their organizers and financial backers don’t seem to be from around these parts.
This is not hyperbole. President Biden has been sounding the alarm that that’s who these extremists are. They are the same traitor bullies who would storm democratic bastions and deny the results of a free and fair election if given the mechanisms to do so. They call themselves “patriots” and “liberty” caucus members. If you are approached by anyone espousing these beliefs, please report them to authorities or ask a family member to intervene. They should be considered armed and dangerous, in my honest opinion. They are exhibiting fascist mob-like mentality and are a threat to our national security. And there’s nothing “Semi” about it.
And they’re right here in our own back yards.
They’ve been here since the beginning of time, honestly. They went dormant, but they never died out. Especially not in southern red states like Kentucky with deep pockets of remote communities that lack access to indoor plumbing and quality education, much less internet and the ability to cull out the truth from the myriad disinformation that is spread through our state’s compromised religious institutions and the rumor mill. Kentucky was a slave-trading state, choosing to remain “neutral” during the Civil War. And we all know that being neutral sides with the oppressor.
As I mentioned, this is not the first time they have disrupted our meetings. In June of 2021, they brought 3 percenters to a work session. And last October, they caused our meeting to be shut down during the public comment section, resulting in hearing from only a half dozen of more than 30 people who signed up to speak that night. And on August 2, when they brought more than 100 COVID-breathing bigots to our district’s headquarters, they made their biggest move yet. Led by Frank Simon’s notorious SPLC-designated hate group, American Family Association, and others, with ties to 3 Percenters and groups out of Texas that have been running campaigns to infiltrate school board races, they are recruiting and radicalizing extremists to cause further disruptions, and they are using our school board meetings, PTAs, unions, and other traditionally “neutral spaces” to do so.
Over three years ago, I encouraged our school board to take a more proactive role in governing the outside organizations that have access to our employees, students, families and community resources. Their participation in our school activities and policy making can have an impact on a wide range of things including policies, budget, curriculum, parental involvement and agency, fundraising ability and more. When I wrote this speech, it applied to PTA, but I have since also referenced it in regards to the teachers’ union and others.
Yet Our Parents and Guardians Are Disregarded
In December of 2019, Dear JCPS published our draft of Legislative Priorities, entitled, Educational Justice With “E’s”. The following night, I spoke at the JCPS Board Meeting asking that district leaders add SBDM and parental involvement to their legislative agenda.
When I realized that the district’s legislative agenda for 2022 had no mention of parents, families, or removing barriers to their participation in site based decision making councils, parent teacher organizations, and no effort to level the playing field when it comes to parental involvement within our schools or our students’ lives, I published the following blog piece.
To date, this is an area that remains unaddressed. Meanwhile, fascists with unverifiable claims that they are representing parents and guardians, seem to be taking up all of the oxygen in the room, while those who have been most severely impacted, not only by the unaddressed structural racism that has existed for decades, but more recently by the pandemic and the civil rights movement that was brought to Louisville following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a JCPS graduate.
The first step is to learn to recognize the dog whistles and point them out to your friends, relatives and neighbors, as a warning. The second step is to report these ongoing dangerous behaviors to the authorities. I will admit, this is difficult, because local agencies tend to look the other way and do a terrible job investigating themselves. As we have seen with the botched investigations from school districts, police departments, union politics and elections, and our own attorney general’s office, Louisville’s good-old-boy network cannot be trusted to govern and investigate ourselves. We need outside and national attention.
Please consider making a donation to my campaign for JCPS School Board. I am the only mom in my race. I’m also the only outspoken anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-privatizer out of any of the challengers. In the other three races, the incumbent is the best option. In MY RACE, District 3, the incumbent is a fascist sympathizer. Please help my campaign protect our school board from fascists who want to ban books, intimidate teachers who teach history accurately, and who are forcing students as young as 9 years old to give birth to their rapists’ babies. You read that right!
These same extremists were busy passing trigger laws long before the Supreme Court reversed Roe vs. Wade in June. Kentucky was one of the states where abortion bans went into effect immediately afterwards. There is now a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot that will permanently and irreversibly ban abortion in Kentucky once and for all.
The Good News
People on both sides of the aisle, urban, rural and everywhere in between, recognize that Kentucky’s Christian white nationalist-driven abortion ban goes too far. Not allowing exceptions for the life of the mother until it’s too late, or for victims of rape — ESPECIALLY CHILDREN — is unconscionable. With nearly two months left until election day, it’s entirely possible that voter turnout in Kentucky is going to exceed everyone’s expectations, including those who live outside the state. We also have an amazing Democratic candidate for Senator, Charles Booker, who could very well unseat Rand Paul, helping keep Mitch McConnell in the minority for the next two years. Between Kentucky’s overwhelmingly blue Lexington and Louisville, and a few pockets of fed up Kentuckians across the rest of the state, a blue wave is coming.
Won’t you help us get the message out and protect Kentucky from this threat?
Donate. Share. Volunteer. Ask about the #10FriendsChallenge. Thank you!
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.
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.
At the beginning of this month, my husband and I paid a visit to Eastern Kentucky to witness the flood devastation first-hand and to offer our support to impacted public schools, in particular. We’ve made connections in Letcher, Perry and Hazard Counties. And we are still making meaningful connections, weeks later. The work continues, even after aid and media coverage are exhausted. As co-founder of Save Our Schools Kentucky and Dear JCPS, I would like to extend the book drive that we did in partnership with Louisville PTO and Highland Cleaners and other groups last year, to deliver books and school supplies to our neighbors whose schools have been impacted by floods and other disasters, both natural and man-made.
Please read Eastern Kentucky Needs More Than Our Thoughts and Prayers to see a recap of our visit, learn about extenuating circumstances and unaddressed root causes, which have served to exacerbate the impacts of the flooding. Then, start collecting your books and join us for an event in mid-October as we gather the books and deliver them to school libraries and classrooms in need.
We will be posting wish lists and direct addresses where you can also send your donations. Thank you for your support.
We all knew it was about to happen, especially once a draft of the decision was leaked, but watching “settled law” be overturned in our lifetimes still sent a palpable chill and collective nausea across every thinking person’s psyche, and served as a warning to every person who has ever been pregnant, could ever get pregnant, or who loves someone who fits that description.
“But you’re running for JCPS school board, Gay. What does this decision have to do with public education?”
I’m glad you asked.
First, let’s start with the fact that approximately half of JCPS students are female. The district does not keep tabs on how many more of its students identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ population, but chances are it’s enough to make it a safe bet that more than half of the JCPS student body faces discrimination, and that was even prior to the latest assault on non-male bodies. The Supreme Court’s latest ruling overturning Roe Vs. Wade decision respecting a woman’s right to safe reproductive healthcare will have far-reaching impacts, not only on more than half our student population, but also our teachers and staff, who are mostly women.
The reality is that the majority of our district’s students and staff currently face or will face, at some point in their lives, restricted access to reproductive healthcare, bigoted views regarding their lifestyles, and blatant (and not-so-blatant) roadblocks to opportunities that their white, straight, able-bodied, Christian friends have no trouble accessing.
While I don’t believe we should accept this dystopian future as inevitable, nor am I suggesting we not fight back with every ounce of our being, but in the mean time, we have to deal with the here and now and the fact that our children are already suffering. We have to strengthen and build community to keep them safe. We have to educate them, not only about the authentic history of the struggles of women, LBGTQIA+, disabled and people of color, so we don’t continue to make the same mistakes, but we must also teach comprehensive, factual, age-appropriate sex education, and provide Louisville families with the tools to make safe, healthy and informed decisions. We must do better as a society making sure that our schools’, students’ and families’ basic needs are met, and we must reinvest in programs such as TAPP to prepare for an influx of teen births that is certain to follow such a draconian decision. The TAPP program in JCPS has experienced significant cuts recently, despite there being little to no reduction in need.
I also attempted to explain my initial thoughts in this livestream. (Sorry it’s sideways.) I would love to hear your thoughts.
It’s no secret that before a child can learn, their basic needs must be met. The most obvious are physiological needs, such as food, water and sleep, as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs demonstrates.
School has become one of those places where children turn when they may not have all of their needs met at home. Like it or not, these needs must be addressed before the “business of education” can take place. Teachers, community members and taxpayers’ responsibilities in this regard continue to carve out more resources for this need, at the expense of everything else.
Student and School Safety
Safety is another one of those basic needs, also considered a “deficit” need. Deficit needs are brought about by deprivation. When a child is uncertain where their next meal will come from, their community is plagued with police and gun violence, or they have undiagnosed trauma or disabilities, they do not feel safe. With the increased threat of domestic terrorism impacting our schools, additional steps must be taken. But we MUST stop relying on public schools to be the solution to every problem. MORE must be done outside the classroom. More must be done to address mental health, trauma and unmet needs both inside and outside the classroom. From children accessing weapons in their homes and bringing them to school to More must be done to prevent deadly weapons from getting into the hands of our youth. I believe the role of public schools should be education first. What can do to teach better life and coping skills that can be practiced at home, for example? How can we empower teachers to teach honestly and be authentic mentors to their students?
I am committed to finding meaningful solutions based on actual science and data, to make sure ALL students and adults not only FEEL safe in JCPS schools, but actually ARE. I am committed to working with community leaders inside and outside of our district, county, state and country to move from “thoughts and prayers” to solutions and repairs. I am committed to doing my part to aggressively and decisively stopping the disinformation campaigns and political agendas that are creeping into every aspect of our daily lives, regardless of political party, which present a threat to not only our community and schools, but our national security. I am committed to being a strong voice for legislative agendas and strategies that will reverse the harmful legislation that will siphon resources away from our most disenfranchised student populations and will pursue accountability of those who have played a role, including legal challenges, and working with ethical lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to introduce legislation to curtail the kinds of anti-JCPS corruption and cronyism we witnessed these past legislative sessions.
Patterns and Practices of Discrimination and Retaliation
I wish what I’m about to say wasn’t true. But it’s one of the primary reasons I decided to go ahead and file to run for school board. My very own board member, James Craig, blocked me on Twitter. I don’t remember why, but we’ve had several “fallings out.” One was after I did an open records request to find out if the allegations coming from Black maintenance workers that their entire department had been experiencing racist hiring and promotion practices for years, perhaps decades, and efforts to address it under new leadership of Dr. Pollio were falling short. That should be easy enough to find out if I could pull historical pay and title and sort by department and race, right? Well, I made an open records request trying to get at those data points and was accused of being anti-union. James started yelling in my ear, “You are trying to destroy unions, and I will not play any part in it!” I’m not even sure how unions played a role in this, other than I asked for union affiliation as one of my data points in the hopes it might help me narrow the job titles once I got the data back. But “a hit dog will holler,” if you know what I mean. Well, it turns out the district doesn’t keep track of employees’ race. Isn’t that convenient? That’s not the only problem I found. The more questions I asked, the more scrutiny and attacks I received from my board member and white union leaders. James even went so far one time as to speak against transparency of records in general because of people like me. I was accused of abusing the system when I was trying to expose the cover-ups I witnessed time and again by the district’s own internal investigations department. Whose side are you on, James? I’m on the side of truth. I believe that as a board member, I will be able to obtain more documents and work with other board members who share my passion to begin the painful process of rooting out toxic and corrupt behaviors and leaders.
I realize that by filing to run for JCPS School Board, I am putting myself and my family’s safety and privacy in jeopardy. My decision to run is not one I have taken on lightly. If elected, I am committed to using this platform to protect our community, our tax dollars, our schools and most importantly, our children and their families from attacks from outsiders, infiltrators, predators and privatizers. Many of whom are right here in our midst. They send their kids to school with ours, they worship with us, they work with us. To repurpose an old phrase “Loose lips sink ships.” Trust no one but your gut. We are being gaslit and the truth will get out. When it does, it is going to blow our minds. In the mean time, don’t believe what they say. Watch what they do. Trust your own eyes and not what comes out of their mouths. Document everything. I have been, and I’m slowly publishing it on my blog at All Eyes on Kentucky.
Close the Achievement Gap
While we now have a historic new student assignment plan, it will take visionary leadership to make sure that we have a detailed follow-through to close achievement gaps and provide authentic educational opportunities to all.
A Budget is a Moral Document
The primary purpose of public schools is to educate the community’s children. In particular, children whose primary caregivers either can’t justify the expense of private education, or who don’t want their children to be indoctrinated by religious bigoted history, political disinformation and pseudoscience. Regardless of the reasons families choose public school, they must accept everyone who applies and serve everyone who attends. Students have a wide range of needs and abilities.
Historically, JCPS has faced criticism for budgeting priorities, often justifiably. From having a top-heavy administration with too many corporate executives making six figure salaries, to cutting programs that provide huge benefits to students, struggling schools and our community, such as TAPP and the Challenger Learning Center.
This year’s Kentucky General Assembly passed an immoral budget. According to a report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, in 2024, the per-student funding will be 27% lower than it was before the 2008 recession. If that wasn’t bad enough, that paid every state employee an 8% raise EXCEPT public school employees. These same lawmakers had no problem voting THEMSELVES a raise. Yet, they didn’t have to carve out public school employees. There was plenty of surplus in the budget, which they chose to use to cut state revenue received mostly from wealthy Kentuckians and outsiders.
I am committed to being a responsible steward of Jefferson County taxpayer dollars, and I will advocate for an 8% pay raise for every JCPS teacher and staff member who has direct contact with students. I support the Louisville Urban League’s $10,000 threshold and vow to work with them and others to identify how to pay for this increase without having to go back to taxpayers and ask for another tax increase above the allowable 4%. I vow to work to trim excessive overhead from the district budget, to defund high stakes testing and other tools of privatization and to expose bad actors working to siphon funds away from our public schools. And I vow to hold state lawmakers who continue to promote unfunded mandates and disinformation campaigns targeting JCPS accountable.
It Takes a Village
Students deserve equitable access to advanced curriculum, experienced and respected teachers, and resources, regardless of their zip code; that comes from fully funding education, compensating teachers and staff fairly, and providing “dual resides” for all families.
With the war on JCPS, district leaders will need to stand firm in the face of attacks on public schools from outsiders and grifters and their allies in Frankfort.
Leaders Eat Last
I’ve often heard people use the “airplane losing oxygen” analogy to “Put your mask on yourself before tending to others.”
From a self-care perspective, this makes complete sense. Said another way, “You can’t pour from an empty vessel.”
But I’m a believer that when our community is in crisis mode, which we are, we have to make sure those whose situations are most dire receive critical care first. There will be time for the rest of us to eat.
This YouTube video does a much better job explaining the rationale behind this campaign platform. Please watch and let me know your thoughts.
If you have a question or concern that is not addressed in the key issues above, please email me at email@example.com. Thank you for taking the time to learn about me and where I stand on the key issues.