Metro school board chair, state commissioner agree to meet over withholding of funds

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 5:32pm

The chair of the Metro school board has requested a meeting with Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman over the state’s decision to withhold from Metro $3.4 million in “non-classroom” funding following its rejection of Great Hearts Academies’ charter proposal.

“While I understand your position, I respectfully disagree and request a meeting with you to revisit this matter and avert this action,” Cheryl Mayes, appointed chair of the school board last week, wrote in a Wednesday letter to Huffman.

According to a state department of education official, Huffman has agreed to the meeting.

Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Huffman, said the decision to withhold funds Tuesday came down to enforcing the state’s laws. The State Board of Education ordered the approval of Great Hearts’ charter application, but the local board defied the order on two occasions — most recently, last week.

School board members have repeatedly objected to the diversity plan outlined by the Phoenix-based charter group.

In her letter, Mayes reminded Huffman that Metro only emerged from court-ordered desegregation in 1998. Three-fourths of the school district qualifies for free and reduced lunches, she pointed out, and 29 percent of the state’s English Language Learners hail from Nashville.

“For us, ‘diversity’ is not a political term,” Mayes wrote. “Diversity is a real concern in our community, and we take seriously our obligation to promote it. While you assert the local school board broke the law, we were acting as responsible, duly-elected and duly-sworn public officials upholding the U.S. Constitution and its Equal Protection Clause.”

Mayes letter to Huffman.pdf474.98 KB

22 Comments on this post:

By: FLeFew on 9/19/12 at 4:00

"CherylMayes, appointed chair of the school board last week"

I thought Frogge was chair and cast the deciding vote according to an article or comments a few days ago.

"Diversity" IS a political term. It means anything that the Liberals (or so called progressives) want it to mean. Here they mean going back to the 1960s.

The school board should be concerned with educating the students, not making sure they go to a school with a certain ratio.

We did emerge from court ordered desgregation FIFTEEN years ago. Please move into the 21st century,

By: pswindle on 9/19/12 at 4:19

Great Hearts is in the educaitng business for the money, not educating children. This is the GOP's dream to kill public education. If this continues most of the poor wil not be educated. We are living in a dangerous world of depressing the mass.

By: Strider on 9/19/12 at 4:51

Our entire public education system is average at best because of lack of competition. Making money is not evil. Taking money from folks who have no choice in the matter is. Place the power of choice in the hands of the individual! If a free enterprise like Great Hearts makes money, it's because they do a better job of educating kids! With more money in their hands, they can open up more schools. What is wrong with that?

By: pswindle on 9/19/12 at 6:12

The results are not there. Do research. This is another step to kill puiblic schools.

By: spadafino on 9/19/12 at 6:54

A Memphis Valero Petroleum refinery exploded, killing one worker and seriously burning several others. The state of Tennessee fined the company $63,000. The Metro school turned down a charter school application and gets fined $3.4 million. Yep, makes sense to me.

By: playthegame on 9/19/12 at 7:45

Sheeple.....3.4 million "administrative" withhold....Metro will make it look like the state is taking from the students when Metro schools administrators are worried about that money for trips out of state for their conferences, paying all those 120 day contracts to do work that administrators in central office should be doing themselves, and the many people on payroll that should be out of metro schools and back to Chattanooga and Florida.

Metro schools are reactive not proactive in saving money. The students will get what they were going to get anyway. It's the administrative overload that is worried and must save face.

By: Strider on 9/19/12 at 7:55

pswindle, maybe you can share just a little of your "research" that indicates something other than good results. I am finding only positive information and generally good comments from parents. Look, this country needs to look "forward" in re-tooling a broken educational system that looks like something off of black and white TV.

By: dogmrb on 9/19/12 at 10:29

Good job. Reach out and find compromise! TN can set the example!

By: pswindle on 9/19/12 at 11:00

You have to do more research than just ask parents.

By: govskeptic on 9/20/12 at 6:33

The Board Chair dramatized the vote by waiting until there was a
4-4 tie to cast the deciding vote against granting this Charter.
Hopefully she will explain to Mr. Huffman how she feels about
this Charter and those to come at the meeting's beginning.
Of course that may result in the penalty being increased.

By: karatero on 9/20/12 at 7:27

Metro got what they had coming. The state warned them of the consequences if the denied Great Hearts and proceeded forward and they denied them anyway. Ask and ye shall receive. Metro is wrong in painting themselves, and the students more specifically, as victims when they could have made the outcome different. If Metro schools were doing so well Great Hearts would not be a alternative being explored. If Metro was providing the results needed then a "for profit" school that would be able to produce the needed for the "SAME MONEY" would not have to be explored.

The article says" that Metro only emerged from court-ordered desegregation in 1998."...Are you kidding me? That was 14 years ago.....How much time do they need? Metro is not getting the job done plain and simple. They use diversity as a political smoke screen to avoid the fact that they are not able to do what they have been given the responsibility to do. Otherwise you would not have areas looking at taking over schools based on the state law that would allow so if 70% signed a petition indicating they want a "parent ran school".

Metro cannot educate with the tax dollars they receive even though the fact remains that children going to private schools still see their tax dollars go to Metro. Do the math. They receive tax dollars for more children than they actually educate and still are lacking....

pswindle...Get a clue. Public Education in Metro killed itself.

Strider.....I am 100% with you.....if Metro can't do it. Privatize!!!

By: kellyfretz on 9/20/12 at 7:52

I'm not exactly sure what the point of having a vote whether or not to allow a charter school into the metro area. They took a vote, the charter wasn't vote in, should be end of story. Now, that being said, I know one of the issues the school board had was lack of a diversity plan. I have checked out most of the current charter schools in Nashville, and quite frankly, I don't see a whole lot of diversity going on. And as for the transportation issue, my son goes to a school he got into through the lottery system and there is no transportation for him. I have to bring him to school, which I do gladly because it is a better cluster than the one we are zoned. I don't know what the answer is that will make everyone happy, mostly because there isn't one.

Diversity is important, but to what end. Kids sitting on a school bus for an hour, just to get to a school that isn't in their neighborhood doesn't seem like a good solution. I don't understand why the kids in North Nashville should have any different quality of education than the kids in Green Hills. I do know that things don't get done without parental involvement. We went to Fall Hamilton for one year and I can tell you that there wasn't a lot of parental involvement there at that time. But at Glendale and now JT Moore, there are parents everywhere, volunteering their time and talents to make sure our kids have the things they need and that the teachers have the support that they need.

Parents can work the system to get what they need for their children. They just have to be willing to do whatever it takes and not depend on others to make it happen. There is no easy answer and if you aren't happy with the Board of Education that we have now, there is an option. These people are voted in, if they aren't doing the job, vote them out. If you don't like the job the superintendent is doing, go to meetings and hold his feet to the fire. If you don't like what is going on in your school, get involved. If you don't do anything, you have no right to complain.

By: Specter47 on 9/20/12 at 8:57

Ah, the "diversity" word comes out again. When will people realize that a Diversity Plan means "fewer whites"? That's ALL it means. How can it mean anything else? Tell us Metro Schools, what is a "Diversity Plan"? Show us YOUR diversity plan. This bogus diversity plan is more important to you than school success.

Pswindle, get over it. You keep talking about how Great Hearts and similar schools are in it only for the money. Really? They are highly successful schools and have the data to back it up. At least it is not money that is thrown away like the money spent in most of the schools in Metro.

I just hope Commissioner Huffman doesn't cave to the leader of the School Board bullies. Metro must pay for their arrogance and lack of regard for the kids of any race who would have attended Great Hearts.

By: Left-of-Local on 9/20/12 at 9:58

Too many bone-headed posts here that seek a Republic-utopia world where it's all about money. Really, really sad.

The big issue is the local board's inconsistency on diversity. They HAVE to find a way to right that ship, Great Hearts or not.

By: ptotaximom7 on 9/20/12 at 11:39
Please read the links. Please look at the charts a mom in West Nashville put together. Please realize this vote is about doing the right thing for all our children. And we need to focus this energy and improve our current schools.

If all parents would get involved, make sure their children do homework, are fed and in clean clothes for school, if all parents would make sure their children are not involved with illegal substances, or with friends that lead them down the wrong path (i.e.... student from Hillsboro shot last night) all of our schools would be good.

The First Teacher is the Parent. Stop making our schools deal with all of societies flaws - it is up to the parents to do their job, our teachers are working hard to do theirs. Our teachers cannot enforce discipline as our society won't allow it (children are always right) and suspension doesn’t teach respect it only puts a troubled child out on the street.

I believe a simple contract signed by the parents when they enroll their child in public school for the year that says: I will support my child's education by providing an environment at home that is conducive for learning, I will support the school and the teachers by making sure to do my part in teaching my child how to succeed. I will volunteer time at the school either by _________(fill in the blank). I as the parent am aware Public school is not free, it is paid for by all people in Nashville who pay sales taxes and who pay property taxes or rent property in Davidson County.

This is all the charters school do, they get parents involved. Now let’s work on laws that make parents get involved in all public schools. We need parents to stand up and do their job.

By: ballmark17 on 9/20/12 at 1:27

Laws and fines. Laws and fines. Laws and fines. This is why we need less government, not more -- and I am a Reagan Democrat!

If only Kevin Huffman could employ more collaborative problem solving and less legal muscle. And Cheryl Mayes should have requested this meeting in advance of the vote but giving her benefit of the doubt that Kevin Huffman can not, this all went down during the board transition.

The board was conservative, measured, and deliberate and from my seat, operated with good prudence as advocates for the MNPS student body. And, they didn't slam the door shut on Great Hearts. Great Hearts can go back to the drawing board and resubmit. The school board was inaccurately characterized as hostile by Great Hearts and I think that was uncalled for.

Kevin Huffman, Please waive the fine. You know full well that MNPS like every other public school system in the state is struggling financially. Tuck your ego back where it belongs and learn how to be a collaborative leader. It takes ZERO leadership and even less imagination to levy a fine. And doing so makes matters worse for the students no matter where you say you're pulling those funds from.

By: KENW on 9/20/12 at 3:32

Pswindle, Great Hearts has produced an average ACT score above 27, with similar impressive results in core academic areas. They have one school with a very disadvantaged population where the students have shown incredible improvements since opening. Do the research.

Kellyfritz is correct that there isn't a whole lot of diversity in the current charter schools in Nashville. And, transportation isn't provided for all alternative options.

The school board opposition isn't about diversity, transportation, or even trying to provide quality education for ALL students. Based on this decision, it appears that in the eyes of the school board some students don't deserve quality education opportunities.

Metro Nashville Public School Board got what it deserves. Governor Haslam, Commissioner Huffman, I totally support your actions against the board for defying a state directive.

By: JudgeRoyBean on 9/20/12 at 9:03

1. I keep hearing how charter schools are all about the money. According to MNPS, 81% of the school budget is personnel costs ( Makes me think it might be all about the money on the public side as well.

2. I asked mnps customer service to supply me with documents describing the Diversity Plan. They sent me a pdf titled "MNPS Diversity Initiatives". I can't find it on the web site, guess you'll have to ask for it. Quoted below:

"MNPS Schools of Choice Are the District’s Diversity Plan
MNPS utilizes its student assignment policies, including the 2008 rezoning plan and SBO 1.105, as well as strategies outlined in the U.S. Department of Education’s Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race To Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools,1 to promote diversity, through choice, in its schools."

Part of SBO 1.105 says "Evaluate how you will know when your compelling interest has been achieved. "

I haven't seen anything that could tell me what we are shooting for diversity-wise. I keep hearing about decisions being made because of diversity but I can't seem to find any type of measurable goal, so it seems as if it's more political than anything. To use it as a reason to deny a charter school application, especially considering the lack of diversity (my opinion) in some Metro schools, seems a bit odd.

By: Ask01 on 9/21/12 at 3:38

Nothing new, just the usual government by extortion. Do as we say or we'll make your life miserable.

By: texnash on 9/21/12 at 12:48

I think JudgeRoyBean hit it on the head. Metro board keeps saying, "We're not satisfied with the diversity plan." So what is it?!?!? Can you tell Great Hearts and the city of Nashville what you're diversity goals are and what exactly you'd like to see in the application?

The info that JudgeRB pulled out of MNPS PDF is arbitrary and lacks concrete benchmarks in regards to diversity.

It seems to me that there's a lot of grey area here that the board needs to be more clear on what it means when it says "diversity". I feel most of this drama has been triggered merely on the proposed location school. And if it does in fact end up in White Bridge area (where exactly on WB, I have no idea - there is zero vacant land), White Bridge is not that far removed from North Nashville. It's not like they're planning this thing in the heart of Green Hills.

By: GoodieTwoShoes on 9/22/12 at 10:56

Was Great Hearts the only charter school that was turned down?

By: Church State on 10/15/12 at 3:05

What ever happened to the separation of church and state? I have strong emotions about evasive, unaccountable, sworn to secrecy, and buzzword Mitt Romney, the GOP Presidential hopeful being a faithful follower of a church that is determined to and has succeeded in building a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) - The Mormons, Seminary Building right next to almost every high school in the state of Utah. I am sure the LDS church would love to do the same in your state in their quest for world dominance under the guise of religious freedom, and they probably will as Mitt Romney, and other LDS faithful members push for state's rights, school/education vouchers, education reform by (privatizing the entire public school system) the dismantling of the US Department of Education and teachers unions (actually unions in general). I think we can probably thank Utah Senator Orin Hatch (a pioneer of state's rights, and his current understudies Senator Mike Lee, and Congressman Jason Chaffetz), and other LDS faithful lawmakers for launching and persisting in the movement for states rights and for smudging the fine line to exempt the evasive, unaccountable, and sworn to secrecy LDS church and the State of Utah government from federal guidelines.