By L. Clark Williams
Without a doubt, the fall election season has moved into full swing. For longer than many of us care to remember, the media has successfully focused our attention on the presidential race, and the emails, tax returns, potential conflicts of interest, hate speech and dangerously vile rhetoric that has gone along with it. Some younger voters, in particular, are so put off by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that they are primed to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson whose platform calls for abolishing almost everything that government does, including public education and environmental protection.
Simultaneously, Kentucky Democrats and Republicans alike have their eyes fixed on State House races, and rightfully so. The Democrats, who have held the majority in the House for ninety five years, presently hold a 53 to 47 majority that serves as the primary check against Governor Matt Bevin’s coercive partisanship and his assault on education funding, healthcare and the fundamental separation of powers.
Still, as a backdrop to the election season, there is an air of dissension and unrest that is blowing from the East to the West and from the North to the South. These winds of destruction seem primed to take the country places that we would never wish to go. And the resulting demonstrations and protests that have transpired have a place, but one of the challenges that comes with them is that they concede that those who are taking action do not have sufficient power to address the issues at hand. Therefore, out of necessity, demonstrators and protestors must always attempt to change the minds of other people who have power that they do not possess. And more often than not those attempts are unsuccessful because it is typically harder to change the minds of people in power than it is to elect people to positions of power who already agree with the changes that you want to make.
With that said, there are some very critical races further down the ballot in November that are often not on our radar at all. For many years, many people of color have struggled to break free from the “school to prison pipeline” that has resulted in significant educational achievement gaps, a lack of college or career readiness upon graduation, unnecessary use of deadly force by law enforcement and mass incarceration.
To put an end to this devastation, we have to begin to focus our attention on the schools and prisons that reside on the ends of this pipeline. Therefore, school board and prosecutor elections must become as important to us as anything else on the ballot, and anything else that we do in the name of social justice.
In Fayette County, the Governor recently appointed Lou Anna Red Corn to serve for the remainder of recently retired Commonwealth Attorney Ray Larson’s term. She will not be up for election until 2018 and we must pay close attention to her work between now and then to determine whether or not she will partner with us in shutting said pipeline down.
But, in the immediate term, three of the five members of the Fayette County Board of Education are up for re-election in November. They are Melissa Bacon, in the 1st District (most areas between Harrodsburg and Leestown Roads), Ray Daniels in the 3rd District (most areas between Bryan Station and Richmond Roads and most areas between Richmond and Tates Creek Roads outside Man O’ War Blvd) and Daryl Love in the 5th (most areas between Tates Creek and Harrodsburg Roads). Melissa Bacon and Daryl Love have opposition in their November races and Ray Daniels is running unopposed. And it is crucial for us to recognize that, in addition to backing his other plans to eradicate achievement gaps and increase equity for all students, these board members fully support Superintendent Manny Caulk’s recently announced Office for Educating Boys of Color, as well.
So, here is our chance to do something powerful about our social justice problems right here at home. If we want to help fix the school end of the pipeline to prison, then we must vote to keep Daryl Love and Melissa Bacon. And as a minister, I certainly believe in the power of prayer, but if we don’t live in their districts, we have to do more than pray for them and say to them, “I’d vote for you if I could.” Regardless of where we live, we have to help them win by calling for them and canvassing for them and supporting them with campaign contributions.
After all, these are the races where we can make the biggest difference, and these are the races that will matter the most in the futures of our children. So, doing nothing is not an option.