Op-Ed published by The Courier-Journal
My first reaction to Bob Heleringer’s September 14th op-ed sticking up for racist school mascots was, “Who the hell is Bob Heleringer and why does he like to publicly embarrass himself?” Upon reading a little farther, I realized Mr. Heleringer is a Matt Bevin Republican devoted to bleating out recycled talking points from the Koch brothers that I debunked almost three years ago (“Columnist’s stance on JCPS is in step with right-wing attacks on public education,” Nov. 28, 2017). Mr. Heleringer doesn’t think much of the intelligence of The Courier-Journal readers if he expects to get away with such easily discredited claims.
According to Mr. Heleringer, here’s the controversial claim I made about mascots: “Some of our schools have imagery that we need to take a look at.” I’m surprised your newspaper or digital device isn’t on fire from that hot take. Historical figures that owned slaves, preached white supremacy, and advocated for segregation will always have a place in history books, but JCPS shouldn’t use public resources to honor those who sought to subjugate and oppress people based on race, especially since 55 percent of JCPS students are not white.
However, it turns out the mascot issue is just red meat that Mr. Heleringer dangles in front of his radical right-wing base, as he then resorts to throwing every possible attack at the JCPS wall and hoping something will stick. Please don’t take my word for how misleading Mr. Heleringer’s claims are. Anyone can visit the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) website and see for themselves. What you’ll find is that JCPS has consistently performed at or above the national average compared to similar school districts across the country. This is no small feat given that only two states have cut education funding more deeply than Kentucky since the 2008 recession, and the federal government still fails to provide resources they promised for kids in poverty and children with disabilities. People like Mr. Heleringer, Hal Heiner, Wayne Lewis, and Matt Bevin hurl misleading insults in hopes of distracting us from the radical right-wing’s mission to impose steep cuts to education while gleefully handing out taxpayer money to their wealthy cronies.
What really has Mr. Heleringer shaking in his jackboots is that your democratically-elected school board is giving you the chance to support and defend public education against dishonest attacks on our children and teachers. Our teachers have not had a meaningful pay adjustment in many years. Teachers already face a substantial wage penalty, earning twenty percent less than college graduates working in other fields. On top of this, students are entering JCPS with more challenges than ever before thanks largely to the 2008 economic catastrophe caused by many of Mr. Heleringer’s favorite politicians. Every day, JCPS teachers are asked to educate over 5,000 homeless children, almost 12,000 students still learning English, over 12,000 students with disabilities, and about 67,000 kids from low-income families, many of whom are busy trying to find their next meal or take care of their siblings so their parents can work multiple jobs. These children need more supports, not fewer as Mr. Heleringer would have it. In reality, for many years JCPS has asked for much less funding from local residents compared to other large Kentucky school districts and many surrounding counties. Our children are going to compete for jobs with kids who currently receive much more support from their local communities. Quite simply, we believe that kids in JCPS are just as deserving as children in other schools and in other parts of Kentucky. You have a chance to stand up to disingenuous partisan hacks like Mr. Heleringer and Matt Bevin by voting #Yes4JCPS. Let’s provide our kids the resources they need to have a fair shot in life.
Read “Stand up against dishonest attacks on JCPS children and teachers, support public education” on The Courier-Journal’s website
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