A Nashville blogger who calls himself “Dad Gone Wild” went to a school board meeting, not knowing it would be a charter school pep rally. That means the meeting was packed with students and parents, no doubt wearing matching T-shirts, primed to cheer on cue. I have seen the same phenomenon at meetings of City Council hearings and State Legislature hearings. Even if it is school time, 9 am, 10 am, no matter. The buses are outside, the kids and parents have their scripts. What do they want? More charters! More closings of public schools! I always wonder, “If they are already enrolled in a charter, why do they want more? How many charters can one student attend? Whose agenda is this?”


Dad Gone Wild writes (open the link for his links):


“Sitting at that meeting, it suddenly dawned on me that I was in the middle of yet another charter school publicity stunt. I’ve written previously about what happens when charters get angry and I guess they were angry again because they had astro-turfed yet another meeting.


“The thing that really opened my eyes with this incident though, was the number of leadership people present. The folks present were equivalent to the top leadership at MNPS. I can only imagine what would happen if I called up Jay Steele, chief academic officer for MNPS, and asked him to get his office to show up and leap to applaud a letter that I’d written to disavow charter schools. He’d stop taking my calls. Not neccesarily out of disagreement or agreement, but because he’s kinda busy educating kids.


“That line, between educating and marketing, doesn’t seem to exist with charter operators. It all begins and ends in the marketing department. How is what they are doing perceived and if there is the slightest provocation, then they pull out the full public relations machine to attack. Things getting a little heated right before testing time? Time for a brand new shiny brochure. When a legislative session opens on the Hill, its time to get some kids up there. You’ve been to Public School Day rally’s with kids on the hill right? Didn’t think so, because they don’t exist. You see a group ushering kids through the capital building hallways during session and, dollars to donuts, its a charter school. If people are still questioning the purpose of charters schools, then it’s time for a straw man building op-ed. This is a very organized movement that does not allow dissent. It’s also a zero sum game.


“I’ve heard more than one charter operator argue that they are just part of the solution and that nobody plans on privatizing the whole district. Yet, they continue to grow at an alarming rate. Metro has 19 applications pending this year. Ever ask a charter operator when enough is enough? You’ll never get an answer because the true end game is to eradicate public education like it’s been done in New Orleans and being proposed in Atlanta and York. But they can’t really tell you that, can they? They’ll tell you its all about demand.


“In fact, this week I actually heard the argument put forth that just because all existing charters aren’t full, it doesn’t mean there is a lack of demand. If you had charters in every neighborhood, the demand would go up. Of course they won’t mention that if there was a charter in every neighborhood, since Public Schools don’t have the private monetary support that charters enjoy, it would starve the local public school. This demand argument probably has something to do with that goofy disruption theory that’s been circulating and I’ve been trying to make heads or tail of over the last 6 months.


“In the reform world, New Orleans has been nothing short of a booming success. Unfortunately, a closer look at the numbers tells a different story. Mercedes Schneider points to ACT scores to show the disconnect between the myth and the reality. A charter supporter might ask, but what about that 2013 CREDO study on charter schools? Well, let’s look at one of the reform movements champs Neerav Kingsland’s very own words to see how that was pulled off – by closing schools. The CREDO study shows massive improvement over the last couple of years by charter schools. But, the way this was accomplished was by constantly closing low performing schools and further destabilizing schools in the neighborhoods were children are starved for stability….


“The thing that most baffles me about this conversation is the complete and utter lack of evidence-based dialog that takes place. There are countless, and I could literally sit here and write a whole blog of hyper-links, that show that charters don’t educate the same students as public schools, that charters perform no better than public schools, that charters rob a district of precious resources, and that charters have a higher attrition rate. Yet, when confronted with the evidence, the conversation becomes about whether or not we believe all children can learn. A fact that I don’t think anybody has ever disputed, yet somehow has gotten twisted into a t-shirt slogan that plays on past prejudice.


These past prejudices give fuel to the desire to stifle dissent by labeling the choice movement as the civil rights issue of our generation. News flash, civil rights are the civil rights issue of our generation. We still have a long march ahead of us before we achieve actual civil rights for all. Claiming otherwise is just a distraction that deflects and prevents the evidence from being considered. Any evidence based argument is written off as biased or anecdotal. You know, like the story about how Johnny’s mother was a drug addict and his father used to beat him. Public schools were failing him and his 8 brothers and sisters that he had to tend to, but he thrived once he got into KIPP. Yea, that’s not anecdotal. Just more rules that apply to thee but not for me….


“It takes me back to childhood and there would always be that one kid who would create a game that only he knew the rules to and if you started to win the game he’d change the rules. Object to the rule changes and you were considered a bad playmate and he’d take his game and go home. This discussion on charter schools and education policy is the most bizarre conversation that I’ve ever been involved in. There seem to be no tenets or touchstones and it seems to be a small minority that constantly drives the conversation. In Metro Nashville we expect kids in charter schools to make up only 10% of student body in 2016-2017 yet charter schools are discussed at virtually every school board meeting. They are a constant looming specter over the system preventing focus on real issues.


The charter conversation is also the most serious conversation I’ve ever been involved in, because, not only will increased growth financially hurt the overall system, but because, despite the fact that charter supporters refuse to acknowledge that the delivery system matters, what our schools look like is what our society will look like. Create a stratified school system and you create a stratified society….


“It’s imperative that we demand a system that will educate ALL children. We have to demand a system that doesn’t attempt to determine winners and losers. A system that supports ALL children’s needs so that they can truly learn at their full capacity, because its not enough to just say, “all children can learn.” True civil rights can only exist when all children are given an equitable opportunity to shape their future. We need to confront the opposition with the truth about their proposed system and the impact it will have on children and their communities.


“Charter schools have grown exponentially out of the fears that have been instilled in parents and fanned by the reform movement. This leads me to think about some advice my father once gave me. His words were to, “Always make sure you are running towards something and not away from something.” That idiom has served me well over life and is applicable here. Charter operators want you to flee the current system. I choose to run towards a stronger more responsive public system that reflects our democratic ideals. I urge you to join me and make this a evidence-based story and not an added chapter to Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense.”