Louisville Forum: School Board Races Need More Attention

A diverse pool of candidates has filed for Jefferson County’s three open school board seats.  The most recent is local radio host Tom Mitchell, who plans on running an anti-student assignment campaign, according to reports by the Courier-Journal.

As the deadline to file nears–Aug. 14–some are hoping interest in the races increases. That idea was included in  former Courier-Journal editor David Hawpe's opening speech at the Louisville Forum Wednesday afternoon.

“In my humble opinion, no institution has as much impact on the quality of life in this community as Jefferson County Public Schools,” he said.

But Hawpe said he’s disappointed by the lack of local interest in Jefferson County school board races.

“Down through the years a few board members have been impressive and effective public servants. But in my view, the number major civic figures on the board has been pitifully small,” he said.

This year, four are vying for Larry Hujo's District 7 seat covering eastern parts of the county; two are competing for Steve Imhoff's District 2 (after one candidate dropped out), and two have filed for Joe Hardesty's District 4 seat in southwestern Jefferson County.

The candidates range from concerned parents to prominent public figures and former JCPS staff.

But getting people interested in past Jefferson County school board races has been difficult and that can be seen in the amount of money going into the races, said Hawpe.

He argues tens of thousands of dollars may go toward a school board race while it's not uncommon for state political races to rake in over $150,000.

Most of the money being spent in Jefferson County school board races comes from the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said Hawpe.

“The teacher’s association does spend large amounts of money but that’s about the only large spending that goes on in a school board race,” he said.

This dwarfs personal contributions.  While Hawpe said the JCTA doesn’t always get its way, it is a major factor in school board races.

JCTA president Brent McKim told WFPL it’s too early to back any of the eight candidates vying for seats because the deadline to file is days away. The union is expected to meet August 29th to decide which of the candidates, if any, it will back. 

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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