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Fully Fund and Support the Challenger Learning Center at The Academy @ Shawnee

This petition had 290 supporters

Last year, the Courier-Journal released an article stating that JCPS administrators have removed funding for the Challenger Learning Center Louisville from the budget that was presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday, May 26, 2015. Previously, Challenger staff had been told that their positions were being eliminated, but promises were made by Dr. Hargens that the center was "not going anywhere" but instead that an outside company was going to be brought in to run it.

Now, JCPS pays $90,000 a year to the Kentucky Science Center to operate the facility. In exchange, they received $1,200 in revenue for that investment, causing Dr. Hargens to claim that "for the first time ever it's reporting a profit." That's some funky math. Furthermore, in 2015-2016, the center served 1/3 of the number of students it served under its prior operators. Such a tragedy.

Our original petition warned, "Cutting the [funding] could lead to the end of the Challenger Learning Center at the Academy @ Shawnee. This would be a tragedy considering the value it brings to the district, and considering it is meeting all of its objectives, and coming off its best year yet. We don't think these factors were taken into consideration before the decision was made."

Here is a link to the Courier Journal article.

Our original petition asked for these things of JCPS:


Board members that we spoke to were not aware the funding had been removed from the budget they just voted on. Since they are only voting on what is IN the budget, when something has been taken out, it is not readily apparent. However, Allison Ross, the CJ's education reporter, did her homework and made this discovery. After investing $1.2 MM on installation, we have not given the taxpayers' investment a chance to play out. Show us where you are coming up with the costs, revenues, and other "values" not reflected, and how you made the determination that it is "losing money." 


The reasoning behind the district's decision is that the center is not "self sufficient." How do they know it is not self-sufficient if they are making this decision without a discussion with Challenger Center staff and its Advisory Board? Was the staff ever told their directive was to make it self sufficient? Are they accounting for the value of the 10,000 JCPS students who have come through the program so far? Are they getting the district support they need in order to achieve their goals? We just want to make sure that a conversation with people who know the answers to these questions are taken into account before a decision is made.


The district is saying that they are going to look for an outside company to run the center. That could be a great long-term solution. But what is this timeline? Will the process be equitable? What if no one comes forward? Shareholders ask that they don't put the center "on hold" until they know what the longer term solution will be. There are missions booked for July, even though the staff's contracts run out in June. In addition, the fall is a critical time for booking field trips for the entire 2015-2016 school year. If the center is closed while they are searching for this outside company, an entire year will be lost. The momentum for the center, which is in its 4th year, is strong. That will all be lost if it is shut down for a year. Immediately, the employment contracts for Challenger Staff and the operating budget for the next fiscal school year should be reinstated until a plan can be developed.


Every student in the district should come through the Challenger Learning Center as part of their STEM education in 6th or 7th grade. The investment has been made, and instead of making teachers use up their resources to plan an additional field trip, make it mandatory. Similar to the JA model. The curriculum is integrated with Kentucky Next Gen standards. It provides students a hands-on experience about what it might be like to work in the aerospace field, which, by the way, is the number one export in the state of Kentucky. Click the link to see what the mission experience is like.

Also, if the district wants them to book more missions outside of JCPS, they could provide marketing support, fully staff the center to be able to be open more hours, and simply ask them what they can do to support them. These are two separate business models, but they can't support one and expect the other.


The Challenger Center is currently considered a recruiting tool for The Academy @ Shawnee, and it is housed on its campus, so the funds are managed at the school level and expenses are charged to the school. However, recruiting for the school is not the primary daily purpose of the center. Every day, they take students from all over the district to the moon or to rendezvous with a comet, and open up a world of possibilities for them. Therefore, Challenger Center needs to be assigned to STEM education classification within JCPS or for CLC to have its own designation and have funding and billing independent from the school. It is an asset to the school and shining light in the West End, so moving it from that location (the aerospace magnet of JCPS) would be a disservice to the school and community, but keeping it on the Academy @ Shawnee budget does not.  

Instead, our requests were ignored, and as a result the center sits dark many days, only benefitting a fraction of the number of students who went through it previously. We hope that JCPS Administration and Board Members will correct this egregious error and reinstate funding for the Challenger Learning Center.

Today: Dear JCPS is counting on you

Dear JCPS needs your help with “JCPS Administrators, JCPS Board of Education: The Challenger Learning Center at the Academy @ Shawnee is suffering from neglect. You must act now to restore its funding and make it part of the STEM curriculum for all JCPS 6th and/or 7th graders.”. Join Dear JCPS and 289 supporters today.