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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: NKY School Districts are Jim Crow-Like, Apartheid-Like

This morning, there are a lots of thoughts running through my head. They are thoughts about our local school districts, apartheid, the Southgate School, Jim Crow Laws, equality and efficiency.

Let’s begin with a history of this building at 215 Southgate Avenue, Newport, Kentucky which sits in the parking lot of Hoffbrauhaus.

This building (pictured below) once housed the “Southgate School”.

The following is taken from The History of the Public School of Newport, Kentucky by James L. Cobb.

"The close of the Civil War brought the problem of educating the negro. The negro was now free and a citizen of the Commonwealth. Schools for the negro population of the State were first provided for by the Act of February 14, 1866, which appropriated for their schools all the taxes paid by the negro race in the state except enough to support their paupers. By an Act of March 9, 1867, a poll tax for school purposes was laid on all men over 18 years of age. By an Act of February 25, 1868, all fines and forfeitures paid by the negro race were added to their school fund, and all money from the sale of public lands was set apart by the United States until the per capita of the race should equal that of the white race.

The Newport Board of Education provided for negro education in 1873. This school was under the control of the same board, supervised by the same superintendent, subject to the same rules and regulations, had the same course of study and textbooks, was graded on the same standards, and was supported out of the same general fund, as were all our other public schools. In order to meet the demands for the education of negroes, the City Charter was amended as follows:

Section 1: Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, that the Board of School Trustees of the City of Newport, out of any fund in their hand, derived by taxation under and by virtue of the city ordinances of said city be, and are hereby authorized and empowered to establish and maintain schools for the negro children of the city in such number and localities as their judgment will furnish sufficient education facilities for the colored children of the city.

Section 2: Said school shall be under the same control, rules and regulations as govern other schools of the city. (Separate but equal.)”

Together, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the City of Newport set up a system for “separate but equal” education of the “negro”. These laws of segregation in education and use of public facilities are commonly referred to as “Jim Crow” laws.

Now, onto thoughts about “apartheid”. The term apartheid is a reference to the once segregated conditions which were legislated in the Republic of South Africa. The term is now commonly used to refer to any system which separates people based on color, ethnicity, caste, social status, etc.

And why do I think of South Africa and apartheid?

Because, in describing the school district systems in NKY, David Heidrich, Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, used the phrase “apartheid­-like” in his interview with Michael Monks, publisher of The River City News. Here is the link to that podcast.
 
Chairman Heidrich spoke about the opportunity of local pride which comes from our numerous local public school districts. He goes on to say that sometimes the best decisions are not made because of this fierce local pride. He does say that the disparity in school districts must be addressed. He admits that even though he may not know everything about public education he does know that “we are not serving our youth”.

He said that it is wrong that in many cases only two blocks of geography separate a child going to one of the best school districts in the state from going to one of the two worst in the State of Kentucky. Finally, Chairman Heidrich said, “The system “almost seems apartheid-­like”.

Strong words from the Chairperson representing the business community of NKY.

To discuss the Explore test results of the seven school districts in NKY which are ranked below the middle of the 173 districts in the Commonwealth based on results of the K-PREP examination, I copy in its entirety an email I received from Richard Innes, the Education Analyst for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions. The results of this test are reported out as a percentage of those students who attained the benchmark. So when you read the chart with follows a higher percentage is good and a lower percentage is bad.

Dear Mr. Rechtin,

As the staff education analyst for the Bluegrass Institute and a fellow Northern Kentuckian, I read your articles about the education deficiencies in a number of (NKY) school systems with some interest. Sadly, you are on target with your concerns.

I would enjoy talking with you about some of the short­comings in the current Unbridled Learning school accountability system and also about more indicators of issues for our lower­-performing schools in the region. I especially would be interested in your reaction to a truly horrible proposal being floated to change Kentucky's statewide social studies standards, as this may come before the Kentucky Board of Education as soon as the second week in December.

By the way, it still remains to be seen if the K-PREP tests tell us a solid story, but the more established EXPLORE tests from the ACT given to all our eighth grade students tells an interesting story about some of the districts you have been highlighting as this table shows...

(Editor's noteThe chart names Campbell County but also includes districts in Kenton County)

As you can see, there are numerous cases where the 2015 scores are lower than in at least one previous year (yellow highlight on the 2014-­15 score). In a disturbing number of cases, the 2014-­15 results are the worst ever over the years that Kentucky has conducted Common Core testing (scores in yellow text with red background).

There are some pretty grim numbers in this table, worst of all being that no students in Silver Grove met muster in science in 2014­-15. That is an embarrassment.

Sincerely,

Richard Innes

One final comment made to me by a prominent NKY public figure: “In NKY, with public funds, we are operating a private education system which benefits only those living within certain geographies.”

So, do we continue to operate a Jim Crow­-like, apartheid­-like school district system based upon a home based geographic, socioeconomic lottery, or do we find ways to make sure that we provide equal educational opportunities to all our children?

The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.