Politicians weigh in on proposed settlement of JCPS takeover

Updated: Aug. 2, 2018 at 1:09 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In talks to avoid a legal battle over the state takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools, school and state education leaders met Wednesday about a possible settlement.

Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said he'd consider anything JCPS proposes.

JCPS said they'll have their decision next week.

State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) said he is close to decision makers on both sides.

He predicts JCPS will come back with a counter offer and the two sides will end up meeting in the middle, keeping the case out of court.

"From what I understand of the first offer, I wouldn't agree with it if I were the Board of Education," Nemes said.

Lewis calls it "enhanced oversight." It isn't a full takeover -- the elected school board and superintendent would still make their own decisions and plans -- but the state board would have veto power.

"If we found that those plans were not sufficient or not adequate for remedying those deficiencies we could not approve (them)," Lewis said. "(We'd) send them back for further development to send to us again."

Nemes said that sounds too much like state management.

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"I don't think that compromise or that offer is acceptable but it's a good first step and now I think it's incumbent upon the local Board of Education to respond, to give a counter offer," Nemes said.

The specifics of those negotiations should be kept private for now, according to Nemes.

"I think the school board members that we have and the superintendent probably has their finger on the pulse of the teachers and the parents and probably can move forward with the communications back and forth with the state," Nemes said. "The parents should know about it when a tentative agreement is reached -- before it's inked, if you will -- so they can have the opportunity to comment on it."

Nemes is against a takeover, but said JCPS could use help to improve. He thinks the state moved too quickly from audit to takeover.

He's working on a bill that would change the state's criteria for taking control of a school district. Nemes is hoping it will be passed in January and that it could stop a takeover of JCPS if a settlement isn't reached.

"I hope we don't have to get to that stage and that's why I'm so heartened by the understanding that the sides are both talking and that they're trying to reach a resolution," Nemes said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he's also encouraged the two sides are talking.

"Everybody agrees that JCPS should be the best, large, urban school district in the country. That's the important thing," Fischer said. "So let's work on the gaps from the audit and let's get to work. The best thing is to have the most amount of people and power to do it, that's involving local folks. So, I hope that they continue to work together to make something come together that makes sense for everybody."

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