Ky. education chief says 'abuse and neglect' are reason for proposed JCPS takeover

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky’s Interim Education Commissioner told legislators during a committee meeting Thursday that he is pushing for state control of JCPS because of the “neglect and abuse” of students in the district.

But some lawmakers expressed frustration that the plan and its cost are still not clear.

“We do not have that plan at this time,” Lewis told members of the Interim Budget Review Subcommittee on Education.

Lewis deflected questions about the specifics of the takeover plan. He explained that, by law, the state school board must approve the takeover before a plan can even be formed.

“Regulations say that it would be inappropriate for us to have that plan at this time,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Rick Rand of Bedford was not happy with that response.

“I don't think the law says you don't have a plan,” Rand said.

“It does, sir,” Lewis replied.

“Well, then we need to change that law,” Rand said.

Lewis did tell lawmakers that state management of JCPS, if it happens, would be “costly.” But the commissioner said the expense is worth it, even though the Education Department is having to cut its budget.

“I would spend the absolute last dime that we have in the Kentucky Department of Education on any district if it meant protecting children from the neglect and abuse that I see in Jefferson County Public Schools,” Lewis said.

Lewis later told reporters the JCPS intervention could result in long-term savings compared to what the department already spends on the district.

“It would be my hope that what we continue to do, and even what we do going forward, would result in the Department to Education having to spend a lot less,” he said.

But Lewis remained tight-lipped about what he might have in mind.

“Of course I have ideas in my head," he said. "But ideas in my head don't constitute a plan, or the plan, that we would move forward with in Jefferson County Public Schools.“

Lewis said the hearing on the JCPS takeover could happen as early as next month but most likely in late summer or early fall.

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