Why are Black Kentucky Residents Excited About Charter School Legislation? [The Arena]

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Children are our future, or so we keep saying. 

It seems as though lawmakers in Kentucky, and Jefferson county specifically, are focused on ensuring that adults' political and financial interests come before the interests of our children.

In saying "our children," the implication here lies specifically on black children living in the commonwealth of Kentucky. 

Black families in the West End of Louisville are often forgotten, or are spoken for by lawmakers who may not actually have their best interests in mind. The 40 year old failure, also known as the Jefferson county busing system, has taken children out of their neighborhoods and placed them in schools sitting next to children who don't look like them. This system, supposedly built to integrate our city, has done nothing but reinforce that black neighborhoods are not good enough for black children. 

This busing system has also done something which was likely intended by our antiquated school board -- the same school board that refuses to admit that this system is racist and serves no benefit to the children who leave their neighborhoods at five and six a.m. in the morning. This system separates children of all ages from quick access to their homes and parents. Young children are not able to leave school if they feel uncomfortable or sick, and simply walk home. A little girl from the Shawnee neighborhood in West Louisville has no possible way to walk home from her school in Prospect if something makes her feel uncomfortable or violated. Her mother works 50 hours a week on at minimum-wage salary. This hard working mother still cannot afford car insurance or even $3.50 a gallon gas, and thus has no way to pick her up from school.

This busing system flat out sucks, and is destroying communities.

That being said, poor and working class black parents generally have no options, in regards of placing their children in other schools. Sure, there are catholic schools and private schools. Let's think again about that mother who can't afford gas and car insurance. She surely cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars a year for private or parochial school.

One group is fighting for options for African-American families in situations like this, all across Kentucky. This national group is called the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). Locally headed by Pastor Jerry Stephens and Kim Telesford-Mapp, this organization is currently fighting for the passage of public charter school legislation.

Kentucky ranks 33rd in the nation in K-12 student achievement, 40th in chance for student success, and only 72% of Kentucky students graduate from high school. 

The benefits of charter schools, which have been successfully implemented in Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, include the ability to fire teachers who are not performing, innovative teaching practices and smaller class sizes. The greater reasoning behind the support of public charter schools by of BAEO is that parents like the fictional mother outlined above is choice. 

Charter schools could open up in neighborhoods all over the city, giving parents the choice to send their child to a free public school closer to home. It would also give parents the peace of mind to give their children an opportunity to get a quality education. 

Kentucky House Bill 77, the bill which would initiate charter schools in Kentucky is getting a public hearing on February, 7th in Frankfort. BAEO plans to attend this meeting. 

The Facebook page for Kentucky BAEO is located at http://www.kentuckybaeo.org

photo via BAEO's website

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