Is JCPS student assignment controversy a voter concern?

State Sen. David Williams during the Sept. 26 KET debate
State Sen. David Williams during the Sept. 26 KET debate
Charise Cook
Charise Cook
Philip Delaney
Philip Delaney

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Thursday night, the Jefferson County Public Schools held the first of five community feedback sessions on a proposal to revamp the elementary student assignment plan. It is an issue also front and center in the race for Kentucky governor.

The student assignment plan is hot topic for just about everyone in Jefferson County, but the question is just how much will the controversy effect voters come November?

The first public question and answer session gave parents a chance to get a good look at the revised JCPS student assignment plan of UCLA law professor Gary Orfield.

Orfield suggests some major changes to the current assignment plan to lessen long bus rides while keeping diversity. It calls for changing the current cluster system from six to 13 clusters, giving parents more school choices closer to home.

For David Williams, the Kentucky Senate president and Republican gubernatorial candidate, the revised plan couldn't have come at a better time.

"Even their own expert, recently came forward and said their assignment system was a mess," Williams said Monday night during a televised debate on KET.

Williams maintains Governor Steve Beshear is running from the issue by leaving the decision in the hands of the Jefferson County School Board.

"Governor Beshear won't take a position on anything," Williams told WAVE.

A new TV ad targets the assignment plan in Jefferson County, but is paid for by Restoring America, a group with a Lexington, Kentucky address. The ad shows kids riding the bus at night, contacting mom and dad through letters and even downing Red Bull energy drinks to stay awake. Williams told us he had nothing to do with the ad, but also said he can't disagree with its message.

"I have seen the ad on the Internet and I don't find anything in the ad to be untruthful," Williams said on Thursday.

"When candidates get down in the polls they get desperate and ads like these start to appear," said Matt Erwin, a Beshear campaign spokesperson. "Television stations around the state have refused to air this group's ads because they contain false information and misleading claims."

Judging from a few parents we talked to at the student assignment informational meeting, the commercial may be backfiring.

"My kid is not on the bus with the Red Bull or in pajamas or holding a teddy bear," said Charise Cook jokingly.

Cook said the political ad is misleading and should be pulled.

Philip Delaney told us he would like to see shorter bus rides but said of the spot, "That ad is extraordinarily misleading, and obviously there's no such thing as truth in political ads."

Other parents told us they either found the ad humorous or said it makes some good points.

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