A group of parents in Tennessee has formed to support public education and local control. Most of them are public school moms. Their group is “Standing Together for Strong Community Schools.” They oppose vouchers, and they oppose the governor’s plan to create a commission to impose charters on local communities, whether the locals want them or not.
Their inspiration is Amy Frogge, a Nashville parent who was elected to the Metro Nashville school board despite being outspent 5-1. Amy Frogge is a member of our honor roll because she has started a parent movement to defend public education against privatization and profiteers. Amy took a strong stand against the Great Hearts Academy of Arizona, which wants to open a charter school in a mostly white and affluent neighborhood of Nashville. Remember how charters were supposed to “save minority children from failing schools” and “close the achievement gap.” That is not Great Hearts’ plan, and the Metro Nashville board voted to deny the charter. It voted not once, but four times to deny the charter. To punish the school board, State Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman withheld $3.4 million in state funding that the state owed to the children of Nashville.
And here is the odd part of the Nashville story. Commissioner Huffman told the Metro Nashville school board that the $3.4 million was to be withheld only from public schools, not from charter schools. Remember a few days ago, we discussed here the question of whether charter schools are public schools? Well, apparently, Commissioner Huffman thinks that charter schools are NOT public schools. Only the children who attend public schools in Nashville will be penalized by his decision, not those in charter schools.
So that question is settled. In the eyes of Commissioner Huffman (who previously served as public relations director of Teach for America), charter schools are not public schools. Only the children in public schools are to be affected–punished—by his decision.
And now you know why the parents in Tennessee have created a parent group to fight for public education. Because Commissioner Huffman and Governor Haslam and the far-right members of the Legislature want to privatize public education in Tennessee. The parents want to support their community schools. They want one Nashville.
Groups like “Strong Community Schools” in Tennessee are springing up in states, cities and school districts across the nation. In Texas, there is a moms’ group known as “Moms Against Drunk Testing,” but its real name is Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. In Ohio, there is a new group called “Strong Schools, Strong Communities.” A civic group in Indiana called Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education got started last year and was key in the campaign to beat corporate reform state superintendent Tony Bennett.
None of these groups is funded by the big foundations or the big corporations that support ALEC or the Wall Street hedge fund managers that support Democrats for Education Reform or Stand for Children.
They are grassroots citizens who care about their public schools. There will be many more such groups as the public awakens to the privatization juggernaut that is aimed at our public schools.