#YesOn2MA – Extending the Love to Children of Color

Dear Massachusetts voters:

Thanks to social media the line of demarcation between the North and South is virtually nonexistent, so your battle to place a cap on charters makes me feel right at home.

While Tennesseans enjoy a legislature that is friendly to charters, those of us living in the capital city of Nashville stand ready to jump the next nonsensical hurdle; or thinly veiled attempt to cap charters. For those of you fighting for #Yeson2MA – I feel your pain.

At the heart of the fight for charters across the country is a movement to increase high quality choices for children of color and of limited means. However, the pictures coming out of MA relating to the fight for caps show a side of your great state that is alarming to this Southerner. All white people. Fighting. To cap charters. Yikes!

Not even being on this side of the the Mason-Dixon line prepared me for the #NoOn2 images. Interestingly, I’m not alone…

So, not only are they white, but affluent, too. Double Yikes!

If charters are working for families on the fringes, how does one explain pouring resources into a battle that works against them? Are your charter schools hurting children?

So, you have the highest performing charters in the United States effectively changing the lives of children of color and in poverty.

I’m sorry, what’s your fight about?

YES ON 2!

Loving This List of Charter School Supporters But Wishing it Had More Nashville Flavor

If the 2016 presidential election season will be credited with anything it just might be successfully testing Americans’ allegiance to party politics. With all the controversy surrounding Democrat presidential nominee Hilary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, it seems more prevalent than ever voters choosing party values over the candidates selected to represent them.

Conversely, the 2016 election season may also be recorded as the year the two-party system entered its demise — for the same reason. No one can argue the large role – good or bad – partisan politics has played in today’s political landscape. Still, there are some things that rise above political identity.

I may never understand how the trajectory of a child’s future can be slotted into either a D or R column. How exactly is this divvied up? Families who choose the school to which they are zoned are honoring Democratic principles. But families who opt for non-traditional schooling are representing Republican values?

Because the ed reform movement is seen as Republican mainly due to ideals around driving competition and carving out market share, Democrats advocating for quality choices now qualify their political affiliation, i.e. Democrats for Ed Reform (DFER).

We are Democrats leading a political reform organization that cultivates and supports leaders in our party who champion America’s public school-children.

Got it!

In its statement of principles, DFER earnestly acknowledges the failure of both parties to repair our flawed education system. These Democrats are on a mission to restore the values relating to education the party historically held in high esteem.

Recently, two DFER policy staffers, Charles Barone and Marianne Lombardo released The Democratic Guide to Public Charter Schools – an ed reformer’s dream. Anyone seeking legislative heroes in the fight for choice or national charter school data, look no further.

The masterfully assembled guide is presented in five parts:

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I have read through the guide and intend to read it again. I appreciate the time and commitment Barone and Lombardo contributed to this piece in an effort to build muscular Democratic support for the ed reform movement.

However, there’s this thing.

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Mayor Barry reading to students. (Picture from Mayor’s website)

The guide lists former mayor Karl Dean as a champion of public charter schools as recognized by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. However, Nashville’s current mayor is Megan Barry (I know this all too well – more on this someday). Additionally, Mayor Barry has declared her commitment to education, in general, and pre-k specifically, but has gracefully pliéd around a stance on school choice.

In the past year, I’ve watched the mayor carry out the requisite duties at charter school openings and dedications, but that’s the extent of it. Truthfully, I’m not mad at her. This city is relentless when it comes to protecting traditional public schools even at the cost of thousands of children’s access to opportunity and quality (see post about Nashville’s 2016 school board election). Still, I would like to know.

Further, I’d love to see her picture in the 2017 edition of A Democratic Guide to Public Charter Schools as a hero of choice in her city, the It City. I want my progressive mayor to understand that to be a proponent of choice is to be a friend to parents on the fringes and thousands of black and brown children. I know she has the capacity to empathize with parents pressured by the limits of time and her Democratic values suggests she can sympathize with families with finite means and bound by zip code.

I know she has it in her. It’s time to make it official.

NAACP: Hell No We Won’t Go! (Remember this?)

There is no shortage of school choice proponents willing to let the NAACP off the hook for siding with union bosses against parents desperate for quality education choices for their children. We’re still mad as hell and rightfully so.

Continue reading NAACP: Hell No We Won’t Go! (Remember this?)

I ask myself and the NAACP – are we our brother’s keeper?

For a split second I thought I was in a parallel universe. I was in the middle of Cincinnati with 150 other Black people rallying against the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. THE NAACP. Talk about your jagged little pills! Continue reading I ask myself and the NAACP – are we our brother’s keeper?

Quality Choices and Greater Accountability 

This is a pretty solid USA Today article about the need for more quality choices despite the NAACP charter moratorium. The author fills a small space about the Memphis Lift rally and quotes Lift leader Sarah Carpenter. 

The article is centered around secretary of education John King who speaks against “arbitrary” caps on charter schools and in support of greater state accountability. 

“When charters perform poorly, he said, some states “fail to take action to either improve them or close them, which is the essence of the charter school compact. Charter schools were supposed to be a compact — more autonomy in exchange for greater accountability. And yet some states have not followed through on that compact.”

Additionally, Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools expressed disappointment in the NAACP’s dismissal of charter school successes with children of color over the past 25 years. 

“These families are looking for something better for their children now and shouldn’t have to wait even longer.”

My Disappointment in the NAACP Is Only Matched By My Awe for the Parents of the Memphis Lift

Since the NAACP voted to support a moratorium on charter schools, I’ve been slowly unpacking the unique dynamic played out before my very eyes.

You see, I was fortunate to join a 150-strong group of #PowerfulParents on a trip from Tennessee to Cincinnati, where the NAACP vote was being held. I was one of a small group of Nashvillians picked up en route—most of the parents were from Memphis and members of a take-no-prisoners parent advocacy organization called The Memphis Lift.

These uber-committed parents left their families to embark on a 34-hour, one-thousand mile mission: to make a statement and ensure the message was received.

Peaceful, but battle-ready (and tested), these men and women were properly revved. I sat beside a Memphis dad, who told me, understandably exhausted from the long trip, “I just want to get a shower, talk to my kids and get ready for tomorrow.”

I listened to parents, grandparents and great-grandparents express blinding pride in their children and the schools they’ve chosen for them. I watched organizers lovingly plan meals and lodging, problem-solve and nurture, while preparing to execute their mission. The commitment to successfully execute and return home with a win was palpable.

D-Day

Hoping to connect to leadership before the vote, Lift director Sarah Carpenter emailed a meeting request to NAACP president Cornell William Brooks. Since the meeting was not granted, a small bright-eyed contingent traveled to the 9am NAACP open board meeting at the Westin in downtown Cincinnati. 

Then, in a strange twist of crazy, the parents were denied access to the meeting. I’ll just let that sink in.

The NAACP, the frontrunner of social justice for more than a century, and according to their website, is:

…actively engaged in increasing the African American responsiveness of citizens to be fully engaged in the democratic process.

…shut out the very people they are chartered to protect and engage.

Undaunted, the small group retreated and prepared for phase 2 by joining the rest of the troops. Upon hearing about the treatment of their leaders against the backdrop of the ritzy meeting venue, the freshly motivated parents positioned signs and readied their greatest weapon—their collective voice.

Chants of “no choice, no voice” and “NAACP, you don’t represent me!” filled the Cincinnati streets while police watched from strategically placed posts. Meanwhile, across the street and up a few floors, the NAACP brass sealed the deal; unmoved by the cries beneath their feet.

But, perhaps the most surreal moment of the entire experience was what happened next. After the ratification of the resolution, an NAACP field representative makes the “bold” trek down from the hotel to address the dejected ralliers. Take a couple of minutes to grapple with these images.

Though I was videoing the exchange, I looked away from my phone to take in what was unfolding before me. Suddenly, the interplay of intra-race relations and class became the star of the show. The visual of NAACP hotshots sitting atop a five-star hotel hovering over pleading parents and grandparents speaks volumes. More on this later.

The Real MVP

Even though the trip inbound was fueled by the hope that the NAACP would side with families and children, surprisingly, the trip home was equally hopeful. Lift parents, astoundingly resilient, are preparing for the next thing.

Toward that end, I must take this opportunity to offer a rooftop shout out to The Memphis Lift and its stellar leadership, Sarah Carpenter and Deirdre Brooks! Thank you for the love and sacrifice on behalf of Memphis families. You are the pride and soul of Memphis. 

Nashville parents: We got next.