ELECTION - VOTING - GENERIC GRAPHIC

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The political arm of the Jefferson County Teachers Association has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into two low-key school board races, reaffirming its status as the most lucrative endorsement for those hoping to sit on the board of Kentucky’s largest school district.

Better Schools Kentucky, the union's political action committee, has spent nearly $400,000 in the two contested Jefferson County Board of Education races, backing Chris Kolb in his District 2 reelection campaign and Sarah McIntosh in her bid to replace Chris Brady in District 7.

Kolb, the board’s vice chairman, is the only candidate to file statements with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Records show he has spent nearly $25,000 in his race against Jody Hurt, a local musician.

Better Schools Kentucky has pumped another $197,929 into the District 2 contest supporting Kolb, KREF records show. Most of that has been spent on digital advertising, billboards, radio advertising and mailers.

The union’s PAC has spent slightly more in backing McIntosh, a former JCPS teacher, against former JCPS bus driver Tammy Stewart in District 7, which covers eastern and southeastern Jefferson County.

KREF records show Better Schools Kentucky has spent $199,208 boosting McIntosh’s campaign, with most of that spending also on digital advertising, billboards, radio advertising and mailers.

Joe Marshall, who represents District 4, has also been endorsed by Better Schools Kentucky but is running unopposed.

Better Schools Kentucky typically spends hundreds of thousands in contested school board contests, and candidates who earn the PAC’s endorsement usually win their races based on recent electoral results.

JCTA President Brent McKim said educators have “an enduring value” for school board members who understand and support public schools.

“Teachers have dedicated their lives to educating kids in our public schools, and it’s extremely important to us that we have great school board members that can support student success and support the educators in the classroom,” McKim said.

After recent election cycles competing against a group that sought to counterbalance the union’s influence in school board races, those contests have been left to JCTA for two consecutive cycles. The Bluegrass Fund, led by local real estate developer David Nicklies, has not financially backed school board candidates since 2016.

For McKim, the drop in competition reflects a growing relationship between JCPS and the local business community.

Yes 4 JCPS, which was formed to build support for the district’s 7-cent property tax rate increase, has been endorsed by Greater Louisville Inc. and backed by prominent businesspeople in Louisville. McKim also noted that Better Schools Kentucky and the Bluegrass Fund endorsed Rep. Lisa Willner in her successful 2014 school board bid.

“We’re all on the same page, I think, in supporting the Yes 4 JCPS revenue measure, and so I’m encouraged by that,” he said.

District 2 and District 7 races will be decided Nov. 3.

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