© 2024 Louisville Public Media

Public Files:
89.3 WFPL · 90.5 WUOL-FM · 91.9 WFPK

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact info@lpm.org or call 502-814-6500
89.3 WFPL News | 90.5 WUOL Classical 91.9 WFPK Music | KyCIR Investigations
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Stream: News Music Classical

Louisville community leaders speak out against anti-DEI bills

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio stands in front of an audience at a podium. The podium has the Louisville Urban Legauge logo. Projected on the screen on either side of Pollio is the logo for A Path Forward Louisville.
Breya Jones
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio says anti-DEI legislation is a direct threat to the state's largest school district's efforts to close achievement gaps.

Leaders from organizations across Louisville are calling for pushback against several anti-DEI bills advancing at the Kentucky Legislature.

Several “anti-DEI” bills are making their way through the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 6, which would limit diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in Kentucky public colleges and universities, passed the state Senate last week.

The bill is one of many filed this session that takes direct aim at diversity, equity and inclusion efforts happening both in and outside of education. Senate Bill 93 would create similar DEI restrictions to SB 6, but at the K-12 level.

With the number of anti-DEI bills filed this legislative session, A Path Forward Louisville released a letter opposing SB 6 and 93 as well as House Bills 9, 191, 224 and 304.

“We, as a collective, rise this morning specifically to address the attacks on public education JCPS and diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Lyndon Pryor, Louisville Urban League CEO and A Path Forward Louisville supporter.

Pryor spoke on behalf of the Urban League at a news conference Monday to rally support for community members to sign the letter.

“There is no neutral position, there is no fence for you to sit on. Now is the time to be vocal and demonstrate what you are for and against or your silence will speak for you,” Pryor said.

He explained the Urban League’s position.

“First, the Louisville Urban League believes that equitable access to free public education is a fundamental right in this country, and that public education serves a critical purpose in the public good,” Pryor said. “Second, a significant component of quality education is the complete and thoughtful teaching of history, facts, and sound science. Any attempt to limit, omit or replace those elements does not represent good educational practice and is harmful to students and our society.”

He said DEI is more than letters or buzzwords. Pryor called them “the building blocks of a prosperous and thriving community.”

Leaders representing Jefferson County Public Schools spoke Monday about how they see the bills impact the district.

“I want to be clear: Everything we do around equity focuses on student outcomes and improving outcomes for kids,” said JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio. “There is no way to eliminate the achievement gap unless we make sure that we specifically provide extra supports, extra funding, everything that we need to do to make sure our most marginalized kids have every opportunity to be successful.”

Pollio said if the bills become law, they will directly hinder JCPS' ability to close the achievement gap.

“I want to be clear what is threatened from much of this legislation, all of our equity work, all of our funding around our high poverty schools, where we have the majority of our black students in our high poverty schools, schools, such as W.E.B DuBois, Grace James Academy, TAPP school for Girls, Newcomer Academy, are all threatened by this legislation,” Pollio said.

Schools like W.E.B. DuBois Academy and Grace James Academy have curriculums that are explicitly Afro-centric. Under some proposed legislation, these curricula could be outright banned.

“Closing the school is one thing, but ending a curriculum that can manifest and be pushed out throughout the district is the other problem,” said JCPS chief equity officer John Marshall.

Marshall said legislators are trying to make sure the established status quo stays in place.

“America's curriculum has always been to mistreat marginalized and mute those that do not wish to comply,” Marshall said. “We have a superintendent and we have a board and we have a community that once again must say, we are really ready to change the curriculum literally and symbolically of America.”

Jefferson County Teachers Association president Brent McKim spoke about the proposed legislation's impact on teachers.

“It's also important because we know from studies that if a Black child has even one Black teacher, they are significantly more likely to graduate,” McKim said. “DEI also helps us create inclusive spaces that keep Black teachers and other teachers of color in classrooms, which is important and valuable in and of itself for a diverse student body.”

McKim asked which part of DEI legislators actually have an issue with.

“They like to just say DEI as if it's just three letters,” McKim said. “But I think it's worth thinking about what is DEI and why on earth would you be against it?”

Pryor said he believes that these bills come from a place of fear.

“What we're doing and trying to help the district and others close the achievement gap is ensuring that our kids have the ability to think critically for themselves to have a knowledge of who they are and where they fit in the world and where they can go,” Pryor said. “And that is going to change not just their lives, but generations of lives. It will change our entire country in our society. And that is the thing that people are scared of.”

Pryor said the Senators and Representatives filing these bills don’t want to see progress.

“They want to see us stay back in 1864, before the war was won. That is their interest. And we're not going back,” Pryor said.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

Can we count on your support?

Louisville Public Media depends on donations from members – generous people like you – for the majority of our funding. You can help make the next story possible with a donation of $10 or $20. We'll put your gift to work providing news and music for our diverse community.