MNPS board votes to seek outside counsel in fight against state charter authorizer

Monday, April 1, 2013 at 6:42pm

At loggerheads over a legislative plan that would establish a state panel to approve charter schools and place them without the local school district’s permission, the Metro Nashville school board is ready to explore its legal options.

The board voted 8-0 to authorize Director of Schools Jesse Register to interview and hire independent legal counsel to walk them through their options if House Bill 702, the so-called “charter authorizer bill,” passes.

“I think there’s a high likelihood that if this legislation moves forward in its current form, that this board will not agree to release local dollars to schools that aren’t locally approved. I think that can trigger a negative reaction at the state level,” said board member and budget committee chair Will Pinkston.

Board members expressed concern that a new state panel could shower the district with unexpected numbers of the publicly funded, privately run charter schools and the district would then be stuck with the bill.

The board met Monday in a special meeting originally called to express concern over the plan to state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, whom the district has been at odds with. Huffman turned down the invitation, suggesting that board members talk to lawmakers in the General Assembly.

School board member Amy Frogge, a critic of charter schools, said she was frustrated that the commissioner declined to meet with the board, and added that communication between the state and school board is happening through media reports instead of face-to-face conversations. She added that opening more charter schools with no regard to the district’s budget could result in higher taxes and neighborhood schools closing.

Board members say their concerns are twofold: to limit the fiscal impact of charter schools the state approves in the district without their permission to 3 percent of the district’s budget over three years — which equates to $21.6 million; and to require the district have oversight of any charter school funded by a majority of local dollars. Metro Nashville Public Schools covers about two-thirds of funding for schools, while the state picks up most the rest.

The board is sending those recommendations to the Coalition of Large Area School Systems, a group expected to find a Nashville-area lawmaker who can attempt to add those parameters to the bill driven by the powerful House Speaker Beth Harwell and Mayor Karl Dean.

School board member Jill Speering is also calling on Dean to make an appearance before the school board to talk about the legislation.

The movement to create the statewide panel that could approve locally rejected charter applications comes in reaction to Metro school board’s controversial rejection of a charter school last year. The legislation is awaiting committee hearings in both the House and Senate.

12 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 4/2/13 at 4:24

What's to worry about?

The Republican Party has long touted a belief in smaller government and more local control as a hallmark of their platform.

There is no way these guardians of local sovereignty would ever vote to diminish the power of the people.

I'm sure the MNPS is just over reacting.

Surely Mayor Dean, who so passionately spoke of the children and his love for education when telling us he was raising our taxes (going to Metro Council, the spineless wonders, was just for show) will not abandon the local school board to the state wolves.

Yeah, right! The school board members who opposed the state will be lucky if they are sent to the gulag.

By: Kosh III on 4/2/13 at 6:29

Metro doesn't have ANY competent lawyers?

Whose buddy will this lucrative contract go to?

By: Rocket99 on 4/2/13 at 7:49

There needs to be investigatons into what ties the Commissioner of Education, the Mayor and anyone else who is trying to force this on Metro. Something stinks and it's not week old fish.

So much for the Party of Smaller Government and More Local Control (GOP). Such frigging hypocrits.

By: pswindle on 4/2/13 at 3:55

There needs to be an investigation. There is a lot of dirty stuff going on, and it boils down to money, money, and money. Hauffman's ex-wife is the heart of the Charter Schools. She has been fired from other schools systems for her radical ideas.

By: Loner on 4/3/13 at 4:52

If you are seeking outside counsel, seek outside counsel, not some insider BS...this is serious business; take it seriously...Gov. Haslam, Mayor Karl Dean and this Huffman character are three shady hustlers looking to screw the Metro School Board out of millions of taxpayer's a sham, a scam and a up!

By: Loner on 4/3/13 at 5:26

One must ask, what is the role of the Joe C. Davis Foundation in all this intrigue and back room deal-making? Mayor Dean's wife, heiress to the Davis coal-mining fortune and the Davis Foundation could be off-stage players in this deceitful drama. I agree with Rocket....something stinks here.

By: nashville_bound on 4/3/13 at 10:40

ha, you are all correct.... something does stink! Unfortunately it is MNPS.

The charter issue would be a non-starter if the schools and teachers had been doing their job effectively.

By: pswindle on 4/3/13 at 12:13

You have no idea what MNPS is all about. If the good would come out, the school system would be recognized as a success. When Garcia was here, is when the bad publicity started. You will find some of the greatest teachers right here in Metro. What problems that are here, could be fixed. Charters are not the solution.

By: nashville_bound on 4/3/13 at 2:50

I will only add that I do indeed understand MNPS. My mother in-law of 18 years has been a MNPS teacher for 30 years. She has taught in magnet and zoned schools, and in classes that teach below-level, on-level, and above-level students.

She sees the apathy in her fellow teachers; the ineffectiveness of the administrators, and the utter incompetence of the central office. She sees parents blaming teachers for their own ineptness and the students increasingly devolving into 'victims'. She tells of the new MNPS middle school policy of that mandates teachers to not grade homework (the students may choose not to do their homework assignments) and the teachers must allow the students to retake tests as many times as necessary to achieve the desired grade. What a joke of an institution..... luckily she is retiring soon to teach in a private school.

By: Loner on 4/3/13 at 3:55

Back to the topic of the day...the title, "Charter Authorizer" has no pizzazz....and it does not roll off the tongue....and Spellcheckers put a red squiggly line under the word, "authorizer".....but, do not panic...Jingle James to the rescue!:

May I suggest these snazzy alternatives:

1. The Charter Starter
2. The Charter Kick-starter
3. Chief of Charters
4. The Authorizer Cauterizer
5. CEO, Office of Bullshitization Authorization (CEOOBA)
6. The Chancellor of Charters
7. The Charter Chartist...or Charter Charter
8. The Charter Dude...(Youth-friendly & Edgy)
9. The Charter Chap....(Nice & Folksy)

....and last, but not least:

10. The Charter Chargé d'affaires...(French words add Class)

There...nobody can now say that I never did anything for the folks in the Volunteer's pro bono....enjoy!

By: pswindle on 4/3/13 at 6:18

It is time for your Mother-in-Law to retire. I hope no one that I know had such a negative teacher and trouble maker. If she was a good teacher, she could have help to change the situation. I would like to see the results of her TCAP test. Did her students gain knowledge? Why did she stay for 30 years? Was it for the money? I know several children that go to Metro with oustanding results. But most of all, I know outstanding teachers that love their job and students, and are doing an amazing job. When there were Unions, both the students and teachers were represented and protected.

By: nashville_bound on 4/3/13 at 6:59


You sound like you have a good heart and even intent , but the reality is that the system will never ever improve without competition. Ask yourself why so many public school children and parents are clamoring for more charter schools. There must be an alternative or you are throwing away the majority of MNPS students. This is not about me or my children (both my boys are sent to private schools). It is for the parents that want better for their children but can not afford private schools.
BTW, My mother in-law is a great teacher. She has a masters, and a special ed certification and is at the highest pay level of the old Alexander career ladder. She has been forced by principals to pass students that have no business being promoted. She has been threatened and had her phones stolen by students and been yelled at by parents. I have encouraged her to move-on for years.