LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Despite the emergence of a private group of business and community leaders that hopes to improve Louisville’s public education system as part of its agenda, the chairman of a political group that has dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in local school board races says his group is keeping its options open ahead of this fall’s elections.

The Bluegrass Fund, a nonprofit political organization created in 2012, has mostly focused on races for the Jefferson County Board of Education since its inception, but another group, the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda, is keeping an eye on Jefferson County Public Schools as part of its agenda, according to a report Monday by Insider Louisville.

David Jones Sr., the retired founder of Humana, co-chairs SCALA, and he’s among the top donors to the Bluegrass Fund in its efforts to reshape the local school board.

Sandra Frazier, the founder of Tandem Public Relations who co-chairs SCALA, is another big Bluegrass Fund donor who’s also listed as its treasurer on records filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Jones and Frazier are among the first members of SCALA, which started last year with an agenda that includes improving education, public safety and air travel in Louisville.

Jones told Insider Louisville that the Bluegrass Fund and SCALA aren’t connected, but he’s still concerned with the state of JCPS.

The Bluegrass Fund has raised substantial sums to change the political makeup of the local school board – $421,717 in 2012, $273,250 in 2014 and $359,091 in 2016 – but had limited success on the ballot.

“I still feel that a board whose passion is to educate children, rather than maintain the status quo, is a critical issue that needs to be dealt with,” he said, according to Insider Louisville report. “And therefore I’m proud and happy that we tried to succeed, even though we failed to succeed.”

David Nicklies, a commercial real estate developer who chairs the Bluegrass Fund, said those comments shouldn’t be interpreted as a signal that his organization is giving up on school board candidates.

Four school board seats will be up for grabs in the 2018 election cycle – District 1, represented by board chair Diane Porter; District 3, represented by Steph Horne; District 5, represented by Linda Duncan; and District 6, represented by Lisa Willner, who is among three Democrats hoping for their party’s nomination in the race to replace retiring state Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, in the 35th House District.

“We’ve got to really look and see what the playing field looks like, and we’ll make that decision,” Nicklies told WDRB News when asked whether the group plans to get involved in 2018 races.

The Bluegrass Fund reported no fundraising activity last year in its latest annual report to KREF. It has $62,263 in its coffers.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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