I received the following comment from Kenya Bradshaw, the executive director of Stand for Children in Tennessee. She was responding to the posts about the transition plan for merging Shelby County and Memphis. The transition plan envisions an expansion of the number and proportion of students in privately managed charter schools, from 4% to 19%, and a transfer of $212 million out of the Memphis public school budget.

Ms. Bradshaw seems to be a sincere and committed person, and I suspect she has no idea of the enmity that Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children generated by his performance a year ago at the Aspen Ideas Festival, when he boasted of stripping away job protections from teachers in Illinois, specifically in Chicago. Or the enmity he created when he launched a campaign in Massachusetts to eliminate teacher job protections. Or the enmity he gained by converting Stand for Children into a multi-million dollar corporate organization that advocates for privatization as well as the reduction of teachers’ job status. There was a time when Stand for Children was a grassroots advocacy group that actually stood for children. Now, it is part of the corporate reform movement that is pushing the untested and often failed ideas of the wealthiest, most powerful people in this nation on children and school teachers.

I’d like to hear Jonah Edelman explain why he thinks it is a good idea to strip teachers of all job protections, leaving them at the mercy of communities that might fire them for teaching evolution or the wrong novel. And why he thinks it is a progressive idea to hand public schools and children over to entrepreneurs.

Dear Mrs. Ravitch,My name is Kenya Bradshaw, I am the TN Executive Director of Stand For Children. First let me thank you and Jim Horn for your analysis of the Transition Plan that the Transition Planning Commission developed for the Merger of Memphis and Shelby County Schools although I disagree with your attempt to use one data point as an attempt to showcase the flaws in the plan. I believe that you both should highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the plan and let us know. But to call out one item lacks journalistic integrity and does not offer a fair prospective to the people who read your blogs. To do an in depth analysis of the process I would urge you to read the over 10,000 pages of documents every member poured through or read the transcripts of the over 400 hours worth of meetings. I would also ask that you research the history behind how this happened and read Professor Daniel Keil’s report on schools in Memphis and Dr. Marcus Polhman’s recent book on education in our county then come visit Memphis.I was humbled to work with such committed people who came up with recommendations such as instituting a service learning model so that all students complete at least 40 hours of volunteer service prior to graduating, expanding Art, Music, Pre-K and STEM courses, and a parent advisory board to help engage more parents at every school. My summary in no way does justice to the recommendations so I would urge others to use the link about to read them.Charters:
Charters are already a part of the landscape in TN. We projected for what the reality of our current educational landscape forecasts and also took into account the Achievement School Districts growth. First let me say that all schools in the ASD are not charters some schools are directly run by the state. Personally as a native Memphian I was unsure of what this meant for schools initially so I reached out to Chris Barbic and I must say that he exceeded my expectations. He CARES about not only what happens with the schools data numbers but what happens to the children in the community and the community as a whole. One of your commenters said that parents and teachers did not have a say in this process. I must completely disagree since I attended the first round of community sessions when the ASD team meet with parents. I also know that they meet with every staff member and solicited feedback about what was working and what needed to improve and offered each the opportunity to return to MCS if they did not want to be a part of the ASD. I ask that others just also give them a chance because I do not see any of the people complaining running to get their children into these schools. This work is personal for me because my zoned schools fall into the ASD and it directly affects my family. My family deserves better schools than the current options that are available to them. As an avid supporter of public education we must work to improve our system as a whole and charters in my opinion serve as a tool to improve schools. Charters are not the enemy of public schools and public schools are not perfect. As a nation we should stop painting the picture that it is one or the other if you support charters you hate traditional public schools. I support strong public schools and strong public charter schools and will work to hold each group equally accountable.Stand for Children:
I am not only an employee of Stand for Children I am also a proud member and came to this organization through its grassroots advocacy to advocate for school funding in Chattanooga, TN. I then became a community organizer then worked my way up to being the ED. I am a first generation college graduate who returned to Memphis to work to improve the system that I LOVE and graduated from. If I ever felt that anything I was doing was not in the best interest of children my moral convictions would not allow me to proceed. At my core I believe that you are a brilliant woman and deeply care about what happens to all children but I do believe that you are unfairly targeting our organization and painting everyone who works in “education reform” with the same brush. Judge us fairly.I work with some of the best people in the country and they spend their lives working to support and build parents up to let them lead on redefining what needs to happen for children in our communities. They don’t believe that we can wait to improve outcomes for children and neither do we.If you are interested I would host a meeting for you in Memphis or anywhere TN to hear parents stories about what has been happening in education. I assure you that these will not all be sad pity stories because great things are happening at many schools across TN. But our parents as do we believe if there is any school that is not providing a solid educational foundation to children we should advocate to change that.

Come meet our organizers and members hear about our work and then fairly judge us.

I would also like to extend an offer for you and Mr. Horn (Please share the invitation with him) to talk to me or any other TPC member Please let me know if either of you are interested. I believe that our Country should be watching what happens in Shelby County.

(Lastly please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors I am typing on my phone and the small screen is making it hard to proof)
Kenya Bradshaw
TN Executive Director of Stand for Children