by Lachin Hatemi M.D.
Fayette County Public School system (FCPS) is a behemoth of an organization which is responsible for providing education to the children of Lexington, Kentucky. With a budget of more than $400 million, FCPS is also one of the largest employers in the city of Lexington.
Once a month, FCPS officials hold a public meeting to go over their budget, agenda and take input from its stakeholders (i.e., general public, parents and other interested parties). These school board meetings have a history of being monotonous and often put most in the audience to sleep had changed dramatically in the recent months.
There is a new participant in the room, the Lexington-Fayette County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Members of NAACP are not very quiet with their presence in these meetings. Actually in a recent meeting, one of the members of NAACP was asked to remove herself form the meeting room for causing a disturbance to the meeting.
The local chapter of the NAACP has significant concerns regarding equity in policies and finances within FCPS, more specifically, the unfair distribution of Section-7 funds and other general funds between low and high performing schools.
One of the main organizers of the protests is Dr. Shambra Mulder, the Chair of Education Committee, was very specific in her comments.
“The Section 7 money is basically the excess money the district has to use at their discretion. The law stipulates that it should be used based on student needs, achievement gaps, and as requested by schools according to their school improvement plans. It appears for the last 5 years, this money has been distributed haphazardly. As a result, high-performing schools have received more money than low-performing schools that primarily serve the low-income students in the district. This is unacceptable and appears to have led to an adverse impact on academic achievement of the neediest students. It remains to be seen whether the district is serious about providing the academic and financial resources necessary to turn around their low-performing schools.”
NAACP recently filed several open record requests asking for the records of general funds and how Section-7 money was distributed among schools.
Lachin Hatemi is a physician and a civil rights activist based in Lexington, Kentucky. Hatemi is also the founder and partner in consulting firm, Hatemi & Wallace Consulting. You can reach him at Lachin@HatemiWallace.com.