There are nearly 100,000 students enrolled in Jefferson County Public Schools, and far too many of them aren’t being served equitably due to a lack of education funding. We knew this before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way education is delivered to K-12 students, when just 35% of economically disadvantaged elementary students were proficient or distinguished readers, compared to 68% of their more affluent peers.
Seven months into remote learning for Louisville’s students, this issue is more urgent than ever before, as many students and their families struggle with internet affordability and connectivity issues and no longer have the same level of access to teachers and resources.
Therefore, for the first time in the history of the Prichard Committee of Academic Excellence, our board of directors has voted to support a local ballot initiative to raise property taxes. The funding raised through this tax increase will enable JCPS to increase the percentage of students proficient in reading and math and will close the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps that have persisted for far too long. These are the same goals that the Prichard Committee has for the entire state of Kentucky, and we feel that in order to move the needle on education outcomes, the success of our commonwealth’s largest school district is critical in this work.
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More: Who speaks for the children? The case against the JCPS tax increase
If the Yes4JCPS ballot measure is passed, more than 10,000 JCPS students will be able to attend summer learning programs by 2023, and new experiences will be available for students beyond the classroom. Research shows that the probability of student success increases with more instructional time, and these opportunities will be extremely valuable in building a big, bold future for each one of them.
By raising the property tax by 7 cents, the average homeowner in Jefferson County will pay an extra $105 a year, about $2 a week. This funding will help provide equitable access, opportunity and support for students, adequate resources to achieve that, and a requirement for accountability to the public. This funding is important for all residents of JCPS — not just parents and current students — as a quality public education system is critical to the economic and social well-being of any community.
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence understands that the gaps we see in educational outcomes result from inequitable inputs at the state and district level — and throughout our communities. We fully support the leadership of our members locally to ensure adequate and equitable resources for student learning, coupled with clear accountability for closing academic achievement gaps and increased student outcomes. Now is the time to rectify imbalances and build a better educational system for a big, bold future. When you cast your ballot, please join with us and vote “yes” for JCPS.
More: JCPS helped build Michael Bush and Keenan Burton. They support a tax increase to give back
Brigitte Blom Ramsey is the president & CEO of the Prichard Committee, an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary. Franklin Jelsma, Al Cornish and Bonnie Lash Freeman are on the Prichard Committee’s Board of Directors and reside in Louisville.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Voting yes for JCPS tax plan will help improve education in Louisville