JCPS hires new lobbying firm to help push legislative agenda - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS hires new lobbying firm to help push legislative agenda

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jefferson County Public Schools has hired a new lobbying firm to help push its legislative agenda, according to a contract approved by the school board on Monday.

McCarthy Strategic Solutions will be paid $7,000 per month, not to exceed $45,500, through June 30, 2015 to assist district officials in developing strategies that would “further the legislative interests” of the district, as well as act as a legislative agent on behalf of JCPS.

Jonathan Lowe, director of strategy for JCPS, told WDRB News Friday the district had previously contracted with a different registered lobbyist – Clyde Caudill – for a number of years and officials decided this year to use a different firm. But instead of issuing a request for proposal through a bidding process, the district decided to sign a professional service contract instead.

“With the legislative session starting Jan. 5, we were under a time crunch,” said Lowe, who added JCPS interviewed four lobbying firms in early December. “If we had issued an RFP for this year, we would have run out of time. Our contract with McCarthy Solutions is through June 30, 2015, after that we will issue an RFP for the 2015-16 year.”

The school board approved its legislative agenda last month, which includes a measure that would give Superintendent Donna Hargens authority to select principals in low-performing schools. It also includes a measure to "enhance and promote public education and oppose the use of public dollars to finance public charter schools, or to support programs that fund non-public schools, such as vouchers or tuition tax credits."

"We have an agenda that has several items on it, the principal selection is just one issue," Lowe said. "We are hearing there will be another push for charter schools and we will be looking at alternative solutions to that."

As of Friday, no bills with charter school language had been pre-filed. However, Sen. John Schickel, R- Union, pre-filed a bill on Dec. 12 that would amend state law to to exclude amounts paid for private elementary and secondary school tuition from adjusted gross income.

The other approved parts of the board's legislative agenda include:

- Supporting legislation to solve the problem of the unfunded liabilities of the retirement systems that serve school district employees, and the development and implementation of a sustainable plan to fund and maintain the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System and the County Employees Retirement System on an actuarially sound basis

- Supporting the continued use of Kentucky Core Academic Standards to align curriculum and instruction, to establish clear, high expectations for what Kentucky students are expected to be able to know and do, and to serve as a foundation for potential improvements to the statewide assessment and accountability system

- Supporting the use the forthcoming study of the adequacy of Kentucky's school funding system by Picus Odden & Associates as the basis for a comprehensive review of school funding in Kentucky by the General Assembly.

- Supporting legislation to permit the development and piloting of innovative alternative assessment and accountability models by school districts

- Supporting the continued use of Kentucky Core Academic Standards to align curriculum and instruction, to establish clear, high expectations for what Kentucky students are expected to be able to know and do, and to serve as a foundation for potential improvements to the statewide assessment and accountability system

JCPS' contract with McCarthy Strategic Solutions also calls for the firm to strengthen the relationship between Hargens and other district administrators with "legislators, including legislative leaders, the Jefferson County legislative delegation, and members of key education-related committees."

John McCarthy, the general partner with McCarthy Strategic Solutions, referred any comment about the contract between his firm and JCPS to Lowe. 

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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