Members of the NAACP in Lexington are raising questions about how Fayette County Public Schools distributes money to individual schools and about the district's minority hiring rates.
NAACP Education Committee chair Shambra Mulder told the school board Monday that her analysis showed the district spends more on high-performing schools than on low-performing schools, according to information she received from the district in response to her open-records request.
At issue are funds known as Section 7 money. It is distributed based on average daily attendance; on pupil needs identified by school councils; and on student needs identified by the board from achievement data in relation to disabled, low income and minority students. Section 7 is just one of many revenue streams with which the district funds its schools.
Mulder said she was able to determine from the data that more Section 7 money was given to Rosa Parks and Veterans Park elementary schools, both ranked "distinguished/progressing," than to Booker T. Washington Intermediate and William Wells Brown Elementary.
Booker T. Washington Intermediate and William Wells Brown are designated in the state's accountability system as "needs improvement."
William Wells Brown ranked at the bottom of all elementary schools in the state's accountability system in 2013-14.
Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm told the Herald-Leader in an interview that she wanted to conduct further review, but at first glance, she said, she did not think the disparity in distribution was intentional.
For example, she said, schools with more kindergarten students might be assigned more kindergarten teachers. Helm said she could not change how the district spent money five years ago.
But, she said, "going forward, as long as I'm here, I'll make sure that we spend it in the right categories."
Mulder said the district spent more in 2013 at Paul Laurence Dunbar High, a school classified as "proficient," than at Bryan Station High, a school classified as "needs improvement" and the only high school in Fayette County classified as "persistently low achieving."
Dunbar received $228,000 compared to Bryan Station's $171,000 in 2013, she said. That number improved for Bryan Station in 2014, with the district spending $264,828 in Section 7 funds compared to $242,022 at Dunbar.
Mulder said that in 2013, Rosa Parks received $183,000 and Veterans Park $354,000. William Wells Brown received $138,000 and Booker T. Washington Intermediate $211,000.
Mulder said the Section 7 money has been used for reasons other than instructional purposes, such as custodial and clerical workers.
If the lower-achieving schools had been receiving adequate funding, they might have performed better, she said.
Mulder said the low-performing schools might be getting more federal money in addition to district money because they have a higher percentage of students who receive free and reduced-price lunch.
"But that is not enough money to do the things they need to improve the scores," she said.
Mulder said the money from the district could go to pay for extra staff and programs at lower-performing schools.
She questioned whether the district had policies to determine how the money is spent and questioned how the district planned to spend the money in 2015-16.
"We will be asking the school board or maybe somebody higher than the school board to investigate where this money has been going for the last five years, " Mulder said.
NAACP Political Action Committee chair Adrian Wallace told the board that, based on information from the NAACP open-records request, for the 480 positions posted last year for teachers, 43 minorities were hired. Of the 60 administrative positions posted last year, eight were filled by minorities.
Wallace said the numbers represented an "adverse impact" on the district, in that they are employment practices that appear neutral but have a discriminatory effect.
In response, Helm said the district was committed to recruiting and retaining a diversified workforce, but "we are not satisfied with our data and we are actively working to improve our numbers."
"It is critical for students of all races to see teachers and leaders in our schools and district who reflect the wide diversity of our community and it is especially critical for our children of color. We are aggressively looking for ways to address this disparity," she said.
Helm said at the meeting that the school district had a new associate director of minority recruitment and retention, Darryl Thompson, who has developed a strategic plan.
Thompson will "play an important role in helping us change the way we intentionally recruit, retain and employ a workforce reflective of our schools and community," she said.