Fayette County

Downtown rally focuses on value of public education, concerns about equity

Equity and concerns about charter schools coming to Kentucky were hot topics Saturday at a downtown rally in support of public education.

“The school privatization movement is here, and it’s moving quickly,” said Lucy Waterbury of Save Our Schools Kentucky. “Unless we understand what is at risk, we can’t protect our kids.”

About 50 people, including state Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, and state Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, attended the March for Public Education in front of the Fayette County courthouses.

Adrian Wallace, of the NAACP of Lexington, told the crowd that charter schools, approved by the legislature earlier this year, lack transparency and accountability.

“If we’re truly going to find innovative practices, we have to do so outside of charter schools because charter schools have proven to be detrimental to low-income and minority communities,” he said.

Melissa Wallace, the parent of a Fayette County student with disabilities and a preschool teacher, said she organized the event in conjunction with the national March for Public Education movement in hopes of helping “parents and teachers and advocates coalesce a little bit.”

In Kentucky, she said similar events were being held Saturday in Madisonville, Louisville and Covington.

“My primary goal with this is just to remind people that education is a top priority in this community,” she said.

Alexandra Hollifield, a health education advocate and representative of Lex Ed, talked about the importance of comprehensive sex education. The organization circulated a petition that will ask the Fayette County Public Schools to provide students with sex ed that addresses reproduction, contraception, healthy relationships, LGBTQ identity and consent, rather than the “abstinence-only” information provided in some schools.

And Paul Brown, a Fayette County teacher and representative of the Pride Community Services Organization, urged the crowd to “vote for the people that are going to keep the money in public schools.”

Sarah Gump, of Richmond, carried a sign that read “Public Educators: Four Generations” that included pictures of her great-grandmother, grandparents, mother, aunt, sister and herself — all public school teachers.

“I’ve learned through their example how much of a difference teachers make,” she said. “I am worried about the charter school, voucher and privatization movement.”