Tennessee’s TFA Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman ordered the Metro Nashville school board to grant a charter to a school run by Arizona-based Great Hearts. The School board voted no. It voted no four times. It said the school wanted to locate in a neighborhood where it would draw mainly from well-to-do white families; the board wanted assurance that the school would serve a diverse enrollment. Great Hearts expects families to make a “voluntary” contribution of $1200-1500 upfront.

Huffman retaliated by cutting state funding to the Nashville schools by $3.4 million in the middle of the term. It’s his way or the highway. What a lesson for the children of Tennessee.

Here is the notice that the board released to all its employees today.

Today, the Tennessee Department of Education withheld nearly $3.4 million from our October BEP funding. We want employees to have accurate information on the matter and our statement is pasted below for your information.

Meredith Libbey
Special Communications Assistant to the Director
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

Metro Schools Statement on BEP Funds Withheld
October 15, 2012

We were disappointed to learn around noon today that the Tennessee Department of Education has refused to reconsider its decision to withhold nearly $3.4 million in taxpayer funding designated for the education of more than 81,000 students in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The funding is 10 percent of the state’s annual “non-instructional” funding for Nashville’s children.

The elected representatives of the people in the state legislature developed the Basic Education Program funding plan to ensure schools are adequately funded. BEP is a funding program, not a spending plan, and these funds are used for a number of services that directly affect students and classrooms.

We are concerned about the effect of this reduction and how we will address this shortfall in the middle of the school year. We intend to be good stewards of the public money and to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions in an effort to minimize the penalty’s effect on the children in our schools.

The $3.4 million reduction is significant and raises concerns about how the amount was determined and whether it is consistent with other penalties assessed by the state. Tennessee law does not address penalties in this situation.

The district continues its work on behalf of Nashville’s children and families and, contrary to some media reports, there is no hiring freeze. The district has the means to meet its current financial obligations and the Board of Education will determine where to make the budget reductions by the end of the fiscal year.