Council again voices opposition to state charter authorizer

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:24am

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.

13 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 2/20/13 at 5:32

Oh no, not another tax increase!

Who could have seen that turn of events on the horizon?

By: Loner on 2/20/13 at 7:00

Metro is right to stand its ground on this issue; Kevin Huffman, Gov. Haslam and Mayor Dean have conspired to hose Nashville....local taxpayers will have to fund the unfunded, state-mandated, mediocre, charter schools being shoved down your throats.

This is an insider deal all the way...the mayor's wife is a wealthy coal-mining heiress and she is pushing this lousy idea behind the scenes... and her cousin, a Mr. Deloache, is the local developer who will be cashing in on the proposed charter's a sweetheart deal and a family affair.

This is how your mayor repays the voters who elected him with an 80% majority...he thinks that he has a mandate to rule, like some sort of coonskin cap-wearing emperor. Throw the henpecked hubby out at the next opportunity.

By: Rocket99 on 2/20/13 at 8:44

The State needs to just flat out back off. Someone needs to investigate the Commissioner of Education, the Governor and the Mayor to see what all ties they really have to the Great Hearts Academy and other cherter school companies.

Singling out Nashville/Davidson county and Memphis/Shelby county shows, to me, that there is already an agenda to shove charter schools down the throats of the local school boards whether they want them or not.

So, if later Knoxville, Chattanooga, or another city/county in the State denies a charter school application, will they be the subject of future legislation?

This decision needs to be held to the local level and not have the State Board of Education as a route of appeal.

If any law even similar to this is brought to a vote, it must cover the whole state, not just the cities/counties the Governor/Commissionar/Legislator(s) is mad at. Quit acting like a bully.

By: TimSkow on 2/20/13 at 10:36

Tim Skow
ALL you "whiners" and conspricary theory people MISS the point. Charter Schools are OPTIONS for PARENTS to choose WHO should be educating THEIR children ! Since when do any of want a Government burearcrat to decide such a critical detail in the life of your children ?? WHY should there be a MONOPOLY on Public Education? Go stick your nose in some of the FAILING schools in Nashvlle & Memphis for a few days and tell me you'd want your family's youngsters going there !! Go ahead.. then bitch!

By: pswindle on 2/20/13 at 10:44

There is something dirty in the works. It boils down to money for Rhee, Huffman and now our Mayor. They should back off before an investigation takes place. TN cannot stand by anymore and let the GOP led state take us down the drain. When is Dean's term up? We need someone that has Nashville/Davidson County's best interest and not to give in to the state on this important issue or any issue. I have never seen a State Legislative Body that has taken every personal issue and stuck their noses in every issue that is none of their business.

By: amoobrasil on 2/20/13 at 10:48

Maynard and Stiles have it right. Only fools and politicians sold out to corporatist American would allow our taxpayer dollars to be diverted from the public school system to charter schools operated by profit-hungry corporations.

By: Captain Nemo on 2/20/13 at 12:28

TimSkon where do you see whiners and conspricary?

By: Loner on 2/20/13 at 12:28

Let me reiterate, this is a Joe C. Davis Foundation scheme, let them fund this experiment in alternative education, leave the taxpayers and the existing public school system out of this...thank you....let Mr. Deloache et al. shake down the Davis Foundation, not the taxpayers.

By: KENW on 2/20/13 at 2:34

Normally I'd be opposed to losing local control, but given that the school board refused to listen to the parents, the state, the mayor, and the FACTS of performance, this legislation seems to be the only viable option.

TimSkow is right "Charter Schools are OPTIONS for PARENTS to choose WHO should be educating THEIR children !"

Remember, this wouldn't be an issue if Nashville and Memphis schools were performing to standard or above. The reality is that they are consistently below standards. Some action is needed, and charter schools provide one alternative to the status quo.

By: ancienthighway on 2/20/13 at 5:27

I agree, charter schools are an option. There is already a venue for charter schools to apply and be approved. It appears to be working properly, to include the appeal process where the state agreed with 75% of the denials to date. For the 25% that the state didn't agree with, a resolution was arrived at without denying money or writing exception legislation.

You have a choice for educating your children now. Public schools. Parochial schools. Charter schools. If you aren't satisfied with the public school your children attend and can't afford private schools, moving to a better school district is always an option, too.

Ask yourself, what will be the end result for public schools if this bill and vouchers are approved? The public school system will be utterly and completely destroyed. Any attempts to fix the problem would be met with a lack of funds. Public education for everyone, something that has been a part of the fabric of this country, would be a joke. Poor people, no matter what their race, would remain uneducated. The ramifications of this are frightening!

By: paulalanjones on 2/20/13 at 5:51

Yes, charter schools ARE options, but since the State removed the economic admittance limitations on charters, almost all new charters will seek out the wealthiest and most educated areas to place their schools--ultimately, creating private schools that paid for with public money. I am not against the wealthy having access to better public schools, I just want to say that it won't help the general level of education in the state. Only the students who live in those more affluent areas or can afford to travel to those schools will potentially benefit.

I think charter schools can be great. I have KIPP Academy in my neighborhood and I have visited it and seen what it offers the kids. But not all charters are created equal and only time will tell how well they do. I don't think creating a new charter authority does anything other than make chartering authority subject to the political office that appoints it. Right now, people can influence charter approvals through their elected school boards, but because the board is made up of representatives from the general area, we have some protection from the will of the few and can make decisions that effect the greater rather than the fewer.

Did the school board do the correct thing last year by defying the BOE? Maybe, maybe not. Does that one occurrence warrant the creation of a new charter authority? I don't think so. Sure, this feels like an urgent issue when you have a child in a failing school and a desperate for something else, but making desperate decisions is not the best way to combat this problem. There is no magic formula that is going to reverse the education problem in TN. Everyone I've spoken to about charters who feel gung ho about adding them can't tell me a single thing about the failed and failing charters that exist in TN already... and we have our fair share of failures.

I know it is easy to want to believe in charters as an educational savior, but unless you are ok with the likelihood that adding large numbers of new charters will make the bad schools worse, then a slow and steady course of action is required. Any way we go, there are going to be successes and failures and by adding a new charter authority we are not guaranteeing fewer failures, so what is the value of adding it?

By: JeffF on 2/21/13 at 9:30

"There is no magic formula that is going to reverse the education problem in TN."

That is the problem, the "problem" is almost entirely located within two school districts. The state as a whole sits below average when compared to other states. But if Metro and Memphis schools were excluded Tennessee would be well into the top half of the states.

The state is addressing the "education problem" of Tennessee by stomping on the two boards that have been responsible for it. The locals however feel they are being bullied, but none have actually offered their own solution. The local battle cry is apparently "more of the same!" Meanwhile, the kids not in families that can afford real school choice and cannot get away from the hell of their zoned school are being educated just enough to work in the hospitality industry as maids and valets and banquet servers.

By: GoodieTwoShoes on 2/21/13 at 10:04

That would be the result of all of the standardized testing. Teachers don't have time to teach. Principals are under pressure to raise scores, not educate, raise scores.
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