Readers of this blog know we have been following the story of Great Hearts Charter School and its effort to locate in an affluent section of Nashville. Here is a good and objective summary in a Nashville newspaper.
State Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman–whose only prior experience in education was working for Teach for America (he taught for two years, went to work for TFA, was never a principal or a superintendent)– wants this particular charter very badly. He has been monitoring the actions of the Metro Nashville school board, and he warned them there would be bad consequences if they did not approve this charter. Huffman made it clear: he wanted this charter approved.
The local board thought that the school would not be diverse, would not reflect the district, and they turned it down. They turned it down three times. The state board ordered them to approve the charter, and the local board said no again.
Maybe the local board was aware of research showing again and again that charters don’t get better results than public schools unless they exclude low-performing students.
Huffman and the Governor were furious that the school board said no. They announced that they would punish the democratically elected Metro Nashville school board by withholding $3.4 million in “administrative” funds. These are funds for student transportation, utilities, and maintenance.
In their vindictiveness, Governor Haslam and Commissioner Huffman are prepared to deny transportation funds for the children of Nashville and shut off the lights and electricity.
All for a charter that expects parents to pony up $1,200 as a “voluntary” contribution to the school. No wonder there are people who think this is a ploy to open a private school with public dollars, located conveniently in an area where upper-income parents want a free public education, inaccessible to children from the other side of Nashville.
Haslam and Huffman are likely to go the ALEC route. The rightwing organization ALEC has model legislation that allows the governor to appoint a commission to authorize charter schools over the objections of local school boards.
A measure of this kind is on the ballot in Georgia this November.
What this demonstrates is that privatization means more to these conservatives than local control. With a governor-appointed commission, they can hand over public dollars to fat cats and cronies.
Nothing conservative about that. A conservative member of the Alabama state board of education writes me offline, and points out that the privatization movement is about greed, not education. It violates every conservative principle.
Remember when local school boards in the South used their powers to defend segregation. Here is one that is using its powers to defend desegregation.
Governor Haslam and Commissioner Huffman can’t tolerate the school board’s defiance. they are ready to wipe out the authority of local school boards to advance the privatization of public education and to hasten the return of a dual school system..