Two hours after the local school board made history by swearing-in two board members of color — a first since the late 1970s — it unanimously passed a first-of-its-kind racial equity plan for the district Tuesday night.
But first, multiple citizens said the plan didn’t go far enough.
“This plan does not have the teeth,” Autumn Neagle, president of the 15th District PTA, said before asking the board to table the plan.
Jefferson County Public Schools officials designed a plan to enforce its racial equity policy, passed in May, and introduced it to a community council in December. In it, the district provides a series of targets and metrics to combat racial inequity and its achievement gap.
But many of those targets, set to be accomplished by fall 2020, set their sights too low, Neagle and others argued.
They’re “too timid” to have a district-wide impact, said Chris Harmer, from the social justice coalition Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. Harmer wanted the plan to be revised to include “meaningful, aggressive targets,” plus clarity on how each should be funded.
With a deadline of 2020, there would be only one full school year with a new budget that includes specific allocations to help with the goals.
“Can’t we go further?” Harmer asked.
The plan’s goals to decrease suspension rates and increase extended learning time for students of color aim too low, Harmer argued. In a district with nearly 100,000 students, targeted increases of 3 percentage points are too low and could be higher, Harmer added.
One exception: A plan to reduce the district’s oft-criticized 30-point achievement gap between white and black students. By 2020, JCPS wants to drop it at least 3 percentage points — “a truly aggressive goal,” Harmer said.
Board members, noting concerns, said they may revisit and amp up some of the goals at a board retreat on Jan. 22. Any changes to the plan would require another board vote.
James Craig, in some of his first comments as a school board member, said he wanted the plan to be ambitious, but did not want to set the district up for failure.
In introducing the plan on Tuesday, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said, “The last thing that we want is to be small in this.”