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Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis

Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis discusses his recommendation for state management of the Jefferson County Public Schools, the conditions that led to his determination of that recommendation, public charter schools, and the controversy engulfing the county's Head Start program.
Season 13 Episode 32 Length 28:03 Premiere: 06/08/18

Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis

It didn’t take Wayne Lewis long to make waves in the public education community across the commonwealth.

Less than two weeks after being appointed interim Kentucky Education Commissioner, Lewis recommended state management of the commonwealth’s largest school district. While some groups hailed Lewis’ decision, a number of parents, educators, and politicians of both parties have come out against the potential takeover the Jefferson County Schools.

Lewis contends the problems in Louisville demand dramatic action.

“I believe nothing short of state management of Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) will ensure that the children in that district are protected and served well,” Lewis says.

The interim commissioner appeared on KET’s Connections to discuss the JCPS situation as well as options for funding charter schools in the commonwealth.

Audit Leads to Takeover Recommendation
Lewis came into office in mid-April, just as the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) was concluding a 14-month management audit of the Jefferson County schools. The commissioner says a range of concerns triggered the audit, including persistent achievement gaps among groups of students, failure to properly implement the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the inappropriate restraint and seclusion of some children

“The pattern for me in Jefferson County is that it’s our most vulnerable kids that continue to be underserved and in some cases victimized,” he says.

As a result of the audit, Lewis could have recommended no action, state assistance for JCPS, or full state management of the district.

“Under state assistance, while the state would offer assistance, ultimate authority remains with the district,” he says. “Under state management, the ultimate authority lies with the chief state school officer.”

That means the state could fire JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio and replace school board members. For now, Lewis says Pollio should in remain place to oversee day-to-day operations of the district, but he will report to KDE Assistant Commissioner Kelly Foster.

JCPS has requested a formal hearing with KDE to appeal Lewis’ recommendation. The date for that hearing has not been set yet, but Lewis says he is eager to defend his decision.

“So my charge before the Kentucky Board of Education will be to make the case that state management is essential in order to remedy the deficiencies that have come forward in the audit,” Lewis says.

Lewis Responds to Critics
Several groups, including the Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition and the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions support state management of JCPS. But many parents, teacher advocates and civic officials in Louisville quickly opposed the recommendation.

Three Republican legislators, Rep. Jason Nemes and Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, along with Campbellsville Rep. Bam Carney, who is chair of the state House Education Committee, penned a joint statement urging KDE to give Pollio more time to turn around JCPS. Pollio was named acting superintendent last summer, and given the permanent job earlier this year.

“Dr. Pollio and JCPS have been open and welcoming to the prospect of state assistance – assistance that could help launch the district to new heights,” the Republican lawmakers said in their statement. “A state takeover would be a huge infringement on local decision-making authority and would break the cooperative spirit that finally exists with JCPS.”

Lewis says it’s telling that critics challenge his call for state management yet don’t dispute the actual findings of the audit. He is also frustrated that opponents criticize him for not providing a specific plan for how a takeover would be implemented. He says state law only requires the commissioner to make the recommendation. If the Kentucky Board of Education approves the takeover, then the state would work with the local district to develop an improvement plan.

“It would be inappropriate for me at this juncture and out of bounds with the law to develop a plan for Jefferson County,” says Lewis.

Some opponents also fear that a state management could be a back-door way of bringing charter schools to Jefferson County. Lewis, who is a long-time advocate for charters, says that’s not the case.

“Dropping three, five, or 10 charter schools in Jefferson County Public Schools would not even begin to address the deficiencies that we’ve noted,” Lewis says. “You add charter schools to that mix, then you give parents some additional options to choose from, but you still have a fundamentally broken system… Adding charter schools will not change the system.”

The Search for Charter School Funding
Before being named interim commissioner, Lewis was an associate professor of education at the University of Kentucky and executive director of education policy and programs for the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Earlier in his career, he was a corrections officer in New Orleans and a special education teacher.

Lewis says he didn’t even know what a charter school was until he started his doctoral studies. He ended up writing his dissertation on the political and policy debates that led to North Carolina implementing charter schools in 1996. He’s since grown to view charters as a “powerful tool” for public education in America.

“The research shows us that charter schools have been most effective in urban communities, particularly with low-income kids of color,” Lewis says. “That’s the very population of kids that we’ve struggled with the most in our traditional public schools.”

Charters work best, Lewis says, when they combine flexibility and innovation in instruction and management with unprecedented levels of accountability. He says schools that fail to meet the goals and standards outlined in their charters should be closed.

“One of the big problems in the charter sector across the country has been academic accountability,” Lewis says. “States that have chosen to not hold their charters accountable… have done more damage to the charter movement than folks who oppose charter schools.”

In 2017 Kentucky became the 44th state to adopt a charter school law. But the original legislation didn’t include a funding mechanism for the schools, and lawmakers declined to appropriate any money for charters in the new state budget passed earlier this year.

“I was extremely disappointed that we did not get a funding mechanism into statue,” says Lewis.

As commissioner, he says he wouldn’t divert current public education dollars to a new charter. Instead he says he’s looking for ways to shield school districts from some of the cuts they’ve already sustained. That includes cutting some staff and functions at the state education department.

“With the budget cuts we’ve had to sustain, the harsh truth is that we cannot continue to do everything that KDE has done in the past,” he says.

But Lewis isn’t giving up on searching for ways to fund charters. He says the charter school law may allow districts the flexibility to use existing funds to convert a traditional school into a charter operation. Whatever happens, Lewis says charters are a tool for improving educational outcomes, but not the only tool.

“I’ve never said and have never believed that public charter schools are a replacement for traditional public schools,” Lewis says. “They have to coexist with the traditional public schools.”

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Host Dr. Wayne Tuckson in a dark shirt and gray jacket on the program set with a "Check Schedule" button.Host Dr. Wayne Tuckson in a dark shirt and gray jacket on the program set with a "Check Schedule" button.

Season 13 Episodes

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S13 E43 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 08/24/18

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S13 E42 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 08/17/18

Jessica Dueñas - 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year

S13 E41 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 08/10/18

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S13 E37 Length 28:48 Premiere Date 07/13/18

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S13 E36 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 07/06/18

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S13 E35 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 06/29/18

Criminal Justice Reform

S13 E34 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 06/22/18

Jay Box - Kentucky Community and Technical College

S13 E33 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/15/18

Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis

S13 E32 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/08/18

Bob King - Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

S13 E31 Length 28:09 Premiere Date 06/01/18

Rachel Childress - Lexington Habitat for Humanity

S13 E30 Length 26:22 Premiere Date 05/25/18

2018 Kentucky Primary Races

S13 E29 Length 29:52 Premiere Date 05/18/18

Dr. Donna Grigsby

S13 E28 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 05/11/18

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S13 E27 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 05/04/18

Kosair Charities Face It Movement; Terry Brooks

S13 E25 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 04/20/18

Child Marriage Laws in Kentucky - Donna Pollard

S13 E24 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 04/13/18

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

S13 E23 Length 29:22 Premiere Date 04/06/18

Secretary Derrick Ramsey - Apprenticeships

S13 E22 Length 28:09 Premiere Date 02/23/18

Educational Innovation

S13 E21 Length 28:45 Premiere Date 02/16/18

Gerald Smith

S13 E20 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 02/09/18

Perry Bacon Jr.

S13 E18 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 02/02/18

DV8 Kitchen

S13 E17 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 01/19/18

Silas House, New Novel

S13 E16 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 01/16/18

Tawanda Owsley

S13 E15 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 01/05/18

Sexual Harassment Issues

S13 E14 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 12/15/17

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S13 E13 Length 27:27 Premiere Date 12/08/17

Good Samaritans

S13 E12 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 11/17/17

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S13 E10 Length 26:18 Premiere Date 11/10/17

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S13 E9 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 11/03/17

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S13 E8 Length 29:31 Premiere Date 10/27/17

Preventing Youth Suicide

S13 E7 Length 28:17 Premiere Date 10/20/17

A Proposal for Pension Reform

S13 E6 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/13/17

Rethinking Pain Medication

S13 E5 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/06/17

Former Gov. Steve Beshear

S13 E4 Length 28:53 Premiere Date 09/29/17

Secretary Elaine Chao

S13 E3 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/22/17

Smoking Cessation and Pregnancy

S13 E2 Length 29:32 Premiere Date 09/08/17

Author and Journalist Sam Quinones

S13 E1 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/01/17

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Preview Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/01/17

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  • Monday January 30, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 30, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 30, 2023 2:12 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 30, 2023 1:12 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 30, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 30, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Devine Carama - ONE Lexington - S18 E17

  • Wednesday February 1, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday February 1, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Dayna Seelig - S15 E12

  • Friday January 27, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 27, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Rachael Denhollander - S15 E11

  • Thursday January 26, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 26, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland - S15 E10

  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Alice Allison Dunnigan - Pioneering Journalist - S15 E9

  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 24, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Terry Brooks - Kentucky Youth Advocates - S15 E6

  • Monday January 23, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 23, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Former Congressman John Yarmuth - S18 E16

  • Sunday January 29, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 29, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 28, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 28, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Pastor Edward Palmer - Racial Bias and Juvenile Justice Reform - S15 E2

  • Friday January 20, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 20, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Mike Runyon and Sherita Miller; Wendy Kobler - S14 E35

  • Thursday January 19, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 2:11 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 1:11 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 19, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Brent Hutchinson; Christine Thompson - Education - S14 E32

  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Education in Rural Eastern Kentucky - S14 E27

  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Joshua A. Douglas - Voting Rights Reform - S14 E25

  • Monday January 16, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 16, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Former State Rep. Joni Jenkins - S18 E15

  • Sunday January 22, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 22, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 21, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 21, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 18, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Colene Elridge - S14 E23

  • Friday January 13, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 13, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Marcie Timmerman - Mental Health and Wellness - S13 E43

  • Thursday January 12, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 12, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 12, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 12, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Tiffany Manuel - Affordable Housing - S13 E42

  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Shining a Spotlight on Epilepsy - S13 E35

  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Criminal Justice Reform - Cherise Fanno Burdeen - S13 E34

  • Monday January 9, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 9, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton - S18 E14

  • Sunday January 15, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 15, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 14, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 14, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 11, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Dr. Donna Grigsby - S13 E28

  • Friday January 6, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday January 6, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kosair Charities Face It Movement; Terry Brooks - S13 E25

  • Thursday January 5, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 5, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday January 5, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday January 5, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Child Marriage Laws in Kentucky - Donna Pollard - S13 E24

  • Wednesday January 4, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 4, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 4, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 4, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - S13 E23

  • Tuesday January 3, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 3, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 3, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday January 3, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Educational Innovation - S13 E21

  • Monday January 2, 2023 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 2, 2023 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 2, 2023 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 2, 2023 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday January 2, 2023 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday January 2, 2023 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Bob Jackson - Murray State University - S18 E4

  • Sunday January 8, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 8, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday January 7, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday January 7, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday January 4, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Wednesday January 4, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Monday January 2, 2023 4:30 am ET on KET
  • Monday January 2, 2023 3:30 am CT on KET
  • Sunday January 1, 2023 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday January 1, 2023 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday January 1, 2023 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 1, 2023 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday January 1, 2023 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday January 1, 2023 11:00 am CT on KET

Melynda Jamison - CASA of Lexington - S18 E2

  • Sunday January 1, 2023 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday January 1, 2023 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday December 31, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday December 31, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
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