A quick Metro Council meeting Tuesday night allowed members to voice their opposition to state legislation that could sidestep the Metro school board’s authority over charter schools.
In response to a state bill pushed by House Speaker Beth Harwell and supported by Mayor Karl Dean, Councilman Steve Glover — who had previously sponsored a resolution opposing the idea in general — filed a last-minute resolution ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting putting the council’s opposition to the bill on record. That resolution passed unanimously, as had the first. But not before a couple of members added their voices to the message.
“Our school board was elected by the same citizens that elected everyone in this room, as well as every other elected official in Davidson County,” said Councilman and Democratic state Rep. Bo Mitchell. “To take the authority of our local school board away, to give to a politically appointed state school board is appalling to me. And I think we need to send a very clear message tonight that we support local control of our government as well as our schools.”
Councilman Bruce Stanley recalled when the city was released from the federal desegregation busing mandate in 1998, citing it as an example of authority being given back to local officials, and he blasted the state bill for singling out Nashville and Memphis.
“So any state legislation should — if they’re going to ask for a charter authorizer at the state level, they need to address the entire state of Tennessee, not simply the county of Davidson and the county of Shelby,” he said. “This is ridiculous.”
Harwell delayed what would have been the first committee vote on the measure Tuesday afternoon, amid talk of a possible compromise. Despite fighting the state on issues of local autonomy in the past, Dean has come out in support of the legislation. Both Harwell and Dean spoke out last week with talking points identifying parents as the people whose autonomy was important when it comes to schools.
At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard disagreed with the mayor’s stance on the state’s involvement in the debate over a proposed Great Hearts Academies charter school last year and opposes the state legislation as well.
“I’m hoping there will be a compromise, [and] I believe there will be a compromise,” he said. “The legislation as it stands now would create a dual school system. You would have charter schools, and those funds would have to come from the operating monies of our current school system.”
That scenario, Maynard said, “would be horrible” and would force the city to raise taxes.