Kevin Huffman, the TFA Commissioner of Education in Tennessee, demands that the Metro Nashville school board authorize a charter in an affluent section of town. The Arizona-based charter, called Great Hearts, expects parents to offer a cash gift of $1200-1500 at the beginning of the school year to defray various costs. The school board worries about lack of diversity and lack of transportation.
The board has rejected Great Hearts four times. Huffman is punishing Nashville by withholding $3.4 million in state aid. The Republican-controlled legislature has threatened to adopt vouchers because of the Nashville board’s insistence on a desegregated school.
As the following article shows, Huffman knows exactly what he is doing.
Huffman on Charter Schools Used for ‘Ghettoizing’
Long before he became Tennessee’s education commissioner, Kevin Huffman penned an article on charter schools that a reader points out as interesting in light of his recent decision to withhold $3.4 million from Nashville’s schools because the local school board rejected a Great Hearts Academy application.
A key reason for the Metro Nashville board’s rejection of Great Hearts application was concern that it would be lacking in diversity. Huffman’s 1998 article for the October, 1998, New York University Law Review focuses on the possibility of litigation over school choice legislation.
In doing so, Huffman observes that a charter school can be designed to effectively exclude enrollment of poor students, either by location, which without provisions for transportation restricts availability to those in the neighborhood, or by limiting dissemination of information on the schools to the children of “quick-acting, better-informed parents… leaving children of poor and ill-informed parents behind, consigned to suffering the deterioration of neighborhood schools.”
“In such a scenario, the children of informed and quick-acting parents have a choice while those “out of the loop” have no choice at all,” he writes.
Here’s the article’s “conclusion” section:
Charter schools will play a prominent role in public education during the coming decade. They suit the political agendas of many and hold great promise for developing innovative approaches to public education.
Charter schools have the potential to reinvigorate the public schools in districts that desperately need a boost. However, as states quickly move forward with charter school legislation, they risk establishing a process that merely provides further opportunities for well-informed families while ghettoizing the poor and uninformed.
The movement toward deregulation allows schools to exclude the neediest students, either through explicit policies or simply through lack of adequate information. .Ultimately, plaintiffs will have a difficult time showing that charter schools or state enabling acts violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment….However, state constitutions and successful school finance litigation in state courts indicate that state challenges to charter school legislation have a higher chance of success.
Most significantly, several policy changes would allow states to mandate a strong, autonomous charter school movement without depriving access to the schools. Greater state oversight of admissions policies and dissemination of information would close potential avenues of litigation while maintaining the legitimacy of charter schools.
These changes would add some costs to charter school legislation, but they would ultimately allow charter schools to reach greater numbers of at-risk students.
It would be a terrible waste of resources if charter schools were consistently tied up in litigation. It would be an even greater waste, though, if the charter school movement failed to reach the neediest public school students.
Meanwhile, Joey Garrison has written a detailed analysis of people and politics involved in the Great Hearts flap.
Posted by Tom Humphrey on September 24, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Copyright (c) 1998 New York University Law Review
New York University Law Review
NOTE: CHARTER SCHOOLS, EQUAL PROTECTION LITIGATION, AND THE NEW SCHOOL REFORM MOVEMENT
73 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 1290
Kevin S. Huffman *
As the quality of public education, particularly in large urban school districts, has declined, activists and politicians from all points on the political spectrum have proposed school reforms. Many reformers have suggested versions of “school choice” programs. These efforts propose to alter the school assignment systems common to most public school districts, in which students attend neighborhood schools without regard to preference. While some activists seek parent choice just among the area public schools, others would expand the notion of choice to private or even parochial schools, giving tuition vouchers to students choosing to attend private schools. 1 School choice activists have argued for nearly three decades that opening the public school market will both stimulate competition and increase school quality. 2 While the choice movement has found support among political conservatives, 3 full-scale voucher programs have been defeated largely by the efforts of teachers’ unions and the Democratic Party. 4
The continued woes of public schools have forced even the staunchest defenders of the status quo to examine new methods of improving school systems. Many districts strapped for personnel now hire teachers without degrees in education or teaching certifications. 5 Both the Bush and Clinton administrations have moved to redefine public school goals with the aim of increasing quality through national standards. 6 Furthermore, as states’ rights became a more prominent issue on the political agenda, school reformers followed suit, advocating a shift in control from state and local bureaucracies to individual schools. 7 Many …