Kentuckians for Progress’ latest video compares JCPS Head Start abuse allegations to border separations. | Screenshot

A new advertisement by a group critical of JCPS compares the district’s Head Start abuse allegations to children being separated from their families at the Mexican border.

Paid for by a 501(c)(4) named Kentuckians for Progress, the audio ad posted to YouTube demands that the Jefferson County Board of Education be held accountable for 40 allegations of abuse and neglect in the now-defunct Head Start program. First, however, the ad compares family separations to the abuse allegations.

“You’ve seen it on the news: Young children separated from their parents at the border,” a female narrator says. “It’s forced a national conversation about we treat our most vulnerable. But here in our own backyard, there’s a crisis with our children, too.”

It appears the ad hasn’t hit airwaves yet, but has only been shared on YouTube and social media.

After the stream of abuse allegations and working on a corrective action plan with the national Head Start office, JCPS learned in May that even one more incident could jeopardize the more than $15 million grant.

The Jefferson County Board of Education voted to give up the grant in May, days before a follow-up report from Head Start said the district continued to fail to prevent abuse and neglect in the program.

Demanding accountability, the video doesn’t specifically say what the group wants done.

“Enough is enough,” the ad says. “We must demand a change and hold the Jefferson County Board of Education accountable.”

A local real estate developer, David Nicklies, is the group’s president, according to filings with the Secretary of State. Nicklies did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the new ad.

Kentuckians for Progress has existed since 2010, originally advocating for the Ohio River Bridges Project. Since June, the group’s mission has shifted to criticism of JCPS, when it began airing radio ads in Louisville.

WDRB reported in June that the group spent nearly $5,000 for 41 radio spots to broadcast a similarly worded ad, which asked that board be held accountable for its actions and urged citizens to “speak up” and “demand action.” 

At the time, Nicklies told WDRB that the ad campaign was to help increase awareness of the Head Start abuses, and not to advocate for the state takeover of JCPS, which he personally supports.

According to FCC records, Kentuckians for Progress has also spent an additional $4,200 securing 45 radio spots for the initial ad through this weekend, though there is no record of the group buying time for the new ad comparing the district’s Head Start troubles to the separation and detaining of migrant children in recent months.

The two radio ad buys of the group were on WGZB and WMJM in Louisville, two urban R&B and hip-hop stations.

Nicklies is also the chairman of the Bluegrass Fund, a political action committee that has spent nearly $1 million supporting the campaigns of school board candidates since 2012, typically those running against union-supported candidates. Unlike the Bluegrass Fund, Kentuckians for Progress does not have to disclose its donors, due to its 501(c)(4) tax status.

Two of the top funders of the Bluegrass Fund since its inception — contributing a total of $450,000 — have been Humana founder David Jones Sr. and Sandra Frazier, who were also the co-founders of the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Future (SCALA) last year. Insider Louisville first reported on the group of 70 local CEOs in January, along with its focus on what kind of state assistance was needed to improve JCPS.

Joe Sonka contributed reporting.

This post has been updated to clarify that there have been 40 allegations of abuse in the JCPS Head Start program, not 40 incidents. 

Before joining Insider Louisville, Krauth was a multiplatform reporter at TechRepublic, where she wrote news stories and features about the intersection of technology and business. Krauth is a graduate of the University of Louisville, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism, with a minor in Russian studies. She completed a prestigious Dow Jones data internship at the Austin American-Statesman last summer. Email Olivia at [email protected]


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