Dear NAACP-Nashville

The Nashville chapter of the NAACP has always positioned itself on the right side of history through its efforts to uphold its mission to advance African Americans. Today, the local chapter is confronted with another opportunity to honor its legacy. Nashville’s public school children and parents need you on their side; which, arguably, is always the right side.

Charter School Moratorium

The National NAACP will be voting later this fall on a referendum to call a moratorium on the creation of charter schools across the country. The strongly-worded resolution roots its rationale in, among other things, charters’ targeting of poor and communities of color, differential enrollment practices, and increasing segregation.

After listing a litany of issues, the document promises to uphold the NAACP’s 2014 resolution opposing the privatizing of public schools. The subsequent superfluous statements threaten to oppose federal legislation that seek to divert public funds for private entities and support funding that “would strengthen local governance and transparency of charter schools.” While the grievances have merit, under no circumstances do they represent what is happening in Nashville.

We’re Good, Thanks

Since the very beginning, Metro Schools has assembled groups of smart, capable professionals to assess charter applications. Then, in response to the pressing need for increased oversight and administrative demands, Metro Schools created an office of Charter Schools. The office leadership would go on to receive national recognition for its effectiveness.

For these reasons and others, Metro Schools is not a district with a charter problem. In fact, for more than a decade charters have provided a great assist to the district. Numbers provide a more inspiring narrative:

  • Authorization and accountability: From 2003 to 2016, MNPS has opened approximately 33 charter schools (an average of 2.2 school starts per year) and closed four.
  • Academic Success: According to the district’s academic performance framework, in 2015, 8 of the 15 highest performing K-8 schools were charters (denoted by the highest designation “excelling”)
  • Further, using the same tool, all but one charter school entered the 2016 school year in good standing.
  • Charter schools students make-up: 66% black, 22% Hispanic, 11% white, 86% Economically Disadvantaged; 11% ELL, 13% Students with Disabilities

This is Nashville’s story, and, for thousands of charter school families, it’s a good one.

Go to the Voices

Nashville parents are blessed with a bounty of solid choices and Metro Schools does a great job marketing its menu of school options. Additionally, charter schools’ face-to-face marketing of beliefs and successes, though unpopular amongst traditional education types, is a proven winner with parents. To this end, parents are making choices and it is incumbent on the city’s leaders to extract the narrative from these decisions.

So my ask is quite simple: As you consider the resolution to support a moratorium on the proliferation of charters, please keep in mind that Nashville is vastly different from other cities and, more importantly, fold into your decision voices of choice.

I implore you to please go to parents, take in their stories, and make the decision accordingly. Their side is the right side.

Thank you for your service to the Nashville community.  Much respect.

“Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.” – Thurgood Marshall

 

 

For the Love of Money

Seems Connecticut has cleared the way for other states with education funding inequities to see a glimmer of hope for the future. In a historic decision this week, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ordered the state of Connecticut to revamp its education funding formula to better serve students in poverty.

“Nothing here was done lightly or blindly,” said Judge Moukawsher as he read the ruling from the bench in a Hartford courtroom. “The court knows what its ruling means for many deeply ingrained practices, but it also has a marrow-deep understanding that if they are to succeed where they are most strained, schools have to be about teaching and nothing else.”

Show Us the Money

The Nashville school board recently voted to join Chattanooga and Memphis to sue the state of Tennessee for increased funding to boost per pupil expenditures. Currently, Nashville spends $11,496.30 (local, state,and federal) per child and that’s with a full quarter of the state’s English Language population. Yes, the capital of Tennessee educates 25% of the entire state’s English Language population (repeat for dramatic effect). See chart below illustrating Tennessee’s commitment to adequately funding education. See where the state lands in comparison to Connecticut.

per-pupil-spending-chart

This glaring omission of urban reality is attributed to the BEP (Basic Education Program), Tennessee’s funding formula used to distribute monies to Tennessee school districts. Currently, Tennessee funds it districts at $9,374.90 (2015 Report Card). As mentioned above, this barely takes into account extenuating circumstances such as extreme poverty (urban and rural poverty offer polar challenges) and high immigrant enrollment; for example, Nashville has the largest Kurdish in the United States (Little Kurdistan).

Instead, the BEP looks at numbers that represent “basic” needs, and in urban areas, funding for basic just doesn’t cut it. Most Tennessee school districts are rural, thus the decades-long fight for attention lodged by the four largest school districts (which includes Knoxville). However, based on this week’s decision to sufficiently fund Connecticut school districts, times – they are a-changin’.

We Got NEXT

So in an unexpected twist, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis are now armed with a little thing called precedent thanks to the success of a lawsuit started in 2005 by school districts in a state more than 1,000 miles northeast. And a special thanks to Judge Moukawsher who admonished and remedied the criminality of underfunding districts with the greatest need.

Connecticut we’re watching you. For the next 180 days, we are watching you.

Tennessee, are you next?

“Violence is going to school twelve years and receiving 6 years’ worth of education.” – Julian Bond

#OneDistrict

Nashville’s education landscape is as fluctuant as the topography of the great state of Tennessee. From the 1962 historic merging of city and county to Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ 1998 declaration of unitary status, forever ending busing, Nashville has seen no shortage of movement. But the community’s cyclical activity of the last fifteen years serves as a cautionary tale replete with lessons and warnings. Continue reading #OneDistrict